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Celebrating Chief Judge Michael Sullivan: A True Access to Justice Champion

By: Justice Thomas L. Kilbride (Supreme Court Liaison to the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice), Justice Mary K. Rochford (Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice) and Danielle Hirsch (Assistant Director, Civil Justice Division)

September 24, 2018

The Honorable Michael J. Sullivan, Chief Judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, has served the public in an exemplary manner for more than 40 years. With this article, we celebrate Chief Judge Sullivan, whose activities have demonstrated a long-term commitment to improving access to the courts for low and moderate-income Illinois residents, as his term on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice ("ATJ Commission") has now ended. On behalf of the ATJ Commission and all of its many committee members and volunteers, we recognize and thank Chief Judge Sullivan for all that he has done, including his work to open courthouse doors across the State to the disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Chief Judge Sullivan, a founding member and leader of the ATJ Commission, has been a steady hand and offered wise counsel in a myriad of ways. As an example of his leadership roles, Chief Judge Sullivan has served as the chair of the ATJ Commission's Court Guidance and Training Committee since its inception. Under his guidance, this Committee has done the following:

  • Planned and facilitated multiple multi-disciplinary access to justice conferences;
  • Proposed an amendment to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 63(a)(4) that notifies judges that they should make "reasonable accommodations" to assist self-represent litigants in the interests of access to justice;
  • Promulgated an Illinois Supreme Court Policy on Assistance to Court Patrons by Circuit Clerks, Court Staff, Law Librarians and Court Volunteers and related training materials; and
  • Created a new standing Illinois Courts Connect "Justice Corner Column," in which judges, clerks and court staff pose access to justice questions to a panel of expert judges from across the State.

In addition, Chief Judge Sullivan has been the liaison between the ATJ Commission and the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges. This role has significantly contributed to increased discussion of access to justice issues within the judiciary, as well as increased involvement by judges across the State in ATJ Commission projects and initiatives.

Overall, Chief Judge Sullivan has shown a true commitment to improving access to the court system. He has labored continually to make "justice for all" a meaningful phrase in Illinois. Chief Judge Sullivan has been so effective in these efforts because he is dedicated, smart, tenacious and possesses a keen common sense. Now that his official term of service as a Commissioner on the ATJ Commission has ended, we cannot think of a better way to show our gratitude than to share our appreciation of him with all of you. Thank you so much, Chief Judge Sullivan.