In a presentation at Knox College, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride focused on Knox’s historic ties to the court and on efforts to make the judicial system more accessible to the public.
“There is a direct connection between the Illinois Supreme Court and Knox College,” Kilbride said on February 13. “There are four past Illinois Supreme Court justices who attended Knox College.”
- Alfred Craig, who served on the court from 1873 to 1900 and was chief justice on at least four occasions.
- Charles Craig, who served on the court from 1913 to 1918 and was chief justice in 1916. Alfred and Charles Craig are the only father-son duo to serve on the court, Kilbride said.
- Guy Scott, who served on the court from 1903 to 1909.
- George Cooke, who served on the court from 1909 to 1919.
Kilbride joined the state Supreme Court in 2000 and served as chief justice from 2010-2013.
During his time as chief justice, the Supreme Court approved several initiatives, including: enhancing the use of technology in all Illinois courts by encouraging electronic filing and other digital means of conducting court business; establishing a pilot project allowing cameras in Illinois trial courtrooms; and creating the Commission on Access to Justice to make it easier for all parties to navigate the Illinois court system.
The Commission on Access to Justice was created in response to the growing numbers of people who lacked proper legal representation in civil court matters, Kilbride said.
“What we tried to do is bring judges, lawyers, clerks and other stakeholders in the court process together to figure out how to make our courtrooms more accessible to individuals,” he added.
Kilbride also discussed another initiative, JusticeCorps, in which trained volunteers assist people with civil legal matters when they are not represented by lawyers. In recent years, several Knox students have participated in JusticeCorps. The volunteers don’t provide legal advice, but help guide individuals who might otherwise be intimidated and uncertain when it comes to navigating the court system.
Jonathan Schrag '19, a member of JusticeCorps, listened to Kilbride’s presentation and spoke with him afterward.
“I decided to attend this event because of my interest in the justice system and the ways it can be improved in order to truly serve everyone fairly and equally, regardless of one's socio-economic background,” Schrag said. “I learned more about Justice Kilbride's involvement with programs designed to increase access to justice through the courts in Illinois, as well as his vision for a justice system that serves everyone equally.”
“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to hear someone so dedicated to the betterment of the justice system and our society as a whole speak on campus,” he added.
Another student in the audience, Anelisa Gamiz '21, said she hopes to participate in JusticeCorps and eventually to become a lawyer.
“I’m really interested in law, so I try to go to all of these kinds of events,” she said. “I think you can always gain a lot from experiences like this.”
After the presentation, Kilbride stopped by the Bicentennial of Illinois Law Exhibit currently housed in Alumni Hall. His talk and the exhibit are sponsored by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission to commemorate 200 years of the Illinois judicial branch.