Women’s History Month Feature: Judge Maureen Ward Kirby

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 Mauren Ward Kirby of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

What is the most important lesson you have learned during your legal career about how to thrive in the profession?

Be resilient and always forward thinking.

What are the most important attributes of a leader in the legal profession?

Competence/good judgment, collaborative/listen to feedback/communicate well, authentic, fair, reliable and identify a goal and motivate others to voluntarily go in that direction.

Please provide an example of a person, or a quotation that inspires you. Explain why you are inspired by that person or quotation.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed humans can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Inspires me to never give up. Don’t just stand on the sidelines, act to make a positive difference in the world.


Maureen Ward Kirby has been a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County since 2007. Prior to joining the bench, she was a Partner in the Litigation Group at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd (now KL Gates) handling complex commercial litigation cases. When in private practice, she was admitted to the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeal and was a member of the trial bar of the Northern District of Illinois. Since September 2009, Judge Ward Kirby has been assigned to the County Division, where she hears, among other things, election, tax, civil mental health and adoption matters. She has presided over hundreds of civil trials seeking involuntary admission to a mental health facility or involuntary treatment, has finalized well over a thousand adoption cases and has extensive experience involving tax deed litigation and election disputes.

Prior to joining the County Division, Judge Ward Kirby was first assigned to Traffic Court in the First Municipal Division (August 2017-January 2018) and then transferred to the Domestic Relations Division from January 2008-September 2009. In that assignment she heard the high volume civil independent orders of protection call at 555 W. Harrison prior to the creation of the Domestic Violence Division. Judge Ward Kirby has presented to her colleagues at the biennial Judicial Education Conference on interacting with litigants with mental health challenges (2018), involuntary commitment proceedings (2020) and the opioid epidemic (2020) as well as a Webinar on emergency mental health orders and outpatient treatment orders (2021). She, along with medical experts from the University of Chicago, piloted two seven session series on opioid addiction and medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in the Fall of 2020 and Spring of 2021.

Judge Ward Kirby is a frequent lecturer on civil mental health law having presented at the Chicago Bar Association on numerous occasions, the Center for Disability and Elder Law, the Cook County Center for Elder Law, CIT training for first responders, Prairie State College, State mental health facilities and at NAMI-Illinois and NAMI-Chicago.

She is a member of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force and currently serves on the Illinois Supreme Court Special Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning and the Community Trust Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice. Judge Ward Kirby is also one of two Illinois judicial representatives to the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative.

Judge Ward Kirby is a certified Supreme Court of Illinois new judge judicial mentor. She graduated magna cum laude from Boston College and from Loyola University of Chicago Law School.

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