Illinois crosses another historic milestone next week when the first Asian-American will officially step up to the state appellate court.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Laura Liu, a Chinese-American, will assume a seat on the Illinois first appellate court district in Cook County on Monday, February 3.
The Illinois Supreme Court announced its appointment of Liu, who was appointed to the 8th sub-circuit court bench in December 2010 and who was elected to a full six-year term in November 2012, on January 15.
Liu, a past-president of the Illinois Judges' Foundation, is taking a vacant seat created by the reassignment of Justice Bertina Lampkin.
A former president of the Chinese American Bar Association, Liu credits the efforts of earlier Illinois Asian-Americans, who broke professional barriers, for laying the foundation of her ascension to the Illinois appellate court.
I'm fortunate and grateful to be a beneficiary of all the Asian Americans before me who first broke the barriers so that this opportunity could have been possible," said Liu who won the Asian Pacific American Community Service Award in 2012. "It means a great deal to each of us whenever any of us receives public recognition -- whether it's judges, lawyers, civic leaders, etc.
In the new post, Liu intends to lean on senior judicial colleagues to help guide her at the outset, a practice she established since claiming a circuit court seat.
"I know that I have a lot to learn and that this will be a new challenge," Liu said. "Having the support of experienced mentors that I respect and admire made all the difference in shaping my idea of how I wanted to serve in the courtroom."
During her tenure in the Chancery Division, Mortgage Foreclosure Section, of the circuit court, Liu has also been busy outside of courtroom, engaged in multiple civic activities and in demand as a guest speaker.
In 2011, she co-hosted a luncheon at the Daley Center courtroom for a delegation of legal officials and scholars from China, including nearly 20 judges, prosecutors, law professors and social workers, who spent three months in Chicago to observe the Cook County judicial and administrative legal processes.
Also in 2011 Liu, a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, was the guest speaker to address the students of the 7th and 8th grade classes at the John C. Haines Elementary School in Chicago's Chinatown public school, where most of the children speak Mandarin or Cantonese as their primary language. And she spoke at the DePaul University College of Law's "Breaking Barriers" scholarship dinner of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association that same year.
Before reaching the circuit court in 2010, Liu was a civil litigation attorney for 19 years. She represented clients whose cases involved Medicare fraud and abuse, labor, and employment. She worked at the law firm of Hogan Marren, Ltd. for 12 years prior to her judicial service.
When asked if she would consider a run for the Illinois Supreme Court in the future, Liu, who won more votes -- 101,077 -- than any other Cook County sub-circuit candidate in 2012, demurred, saying only that she intended to focus on her new job.
"My priority right now is becoming as good an appellate court judge as I can be, which requires me to commit all my energy and focus on learning how to do that," the new appellate justice said.
History making at the Illinois Supreme Court can wait.
Liu's new assignment runs from February 3 through December 5, 2016.