The Chicago Bar Association is pleased to celebrate 2022 Women’s History Month which commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. As a part of the celebration, the CBA is profiling a diverse group of women lawyers and judges who share their personal stories, their perspectives on how to thrive within the profession, their advice for women entering the profession and their predictions for the future. For a full list of the CBA’s Women’s History Month events and programs, visit the CBA’s website here: Women’s History Month (chicagobar.org).
Below is our featured interview with Judge Jacqueline Cox of the United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Illinois.
What is the most important lesson you have learned during your legal career about how to thrive in the profession?
The most important lesson I have learned about how to thrive in the profession is to commit to public service and ethics. I was a young lawyer when the Greylord scandal came to public attention in about 1983. Approximately 52 attorneys and 15 state court judges were convicted of federal crimes.
As a proponent of pursuing the expansion of rights and opportunities for all through our legal system, it supporter of our court system and its place as a leader in our society, I was challenged by many in my community to explain why the courts should ever be trusted.
The court system survived that scandal by committing itself to operating with integrity and to public service.
What do you believe are the most important attributes of a leader in the legal profession?
The most important attribute of a leader in the legal profession is the ability to accept diverse opinions and contributions. Different communities experience things in different ways. To solve problems and gain and retain public support we have to listen to all sectors of society, understanding that we don’t have all of the answers.
Please provide an example of a person, or a quotation that inspires you. Explain why you are inspired by that person or quotation.
I have always been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remark: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” When faced with obstacles or challenges I remind myself that justice usually prevails in spite of how long it takes us to get there.
Judge Cox was appointed to a fourteen-year term as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Illinois pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §152 on February 3, 2003. She was reappointed to a second term of fourteen years on February 3, 2017.
Judge Cox attended the Cornell University College of Arts and Science and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1971. She attended Boston University School of Law and received her Juris Doctor Degree in 1974.
Judge Cox previously served as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County from 1988-2003; four years of that service was as the Presiding Judge for the First Municipal District.
Judge Cox worked in the Public Defender’s Office in Mercer County, New Jersey, from 1976-1977; the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney from 1978-1984; the City of Chicago Law Department from 1984-1988; and the Chicago Housing Authority Law Department in 1988.
Judge Cox is or has been a member of the following professional organizations: American Bankruptcy Institute; American Bar Association; American Bar Foundation – Fellow; American Judicature Society; Association of Black Women Lawyers of Chicago; Chicago Bar Association; Chicago Council of Lawyers; Cook County Bar Association (past service as Treasurer and Board Member); Illinois Judges Association; Illinois Judicial Council (past service as Chairperson); Illinois State Bar Association; Just The Beginning Foundation; Lawyers Club of Chicago (past service as President); National Bar Association; National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges; and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (past service as Board Member).