Illinois Appellate Court welcomes first elected Latino Justice

December 4, 2012

Angelica Robinson

(WBEZ/Angelica Robinson)
Judge Jesse G. Reyes with his wife Terry and daughter Renee being sworn by Justice Anne M. Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Illinois Appellate Court welcomed its first ever Latino elected to the bench this week.

Jesse Reyes won a seat to the Illinois Appellate Court last March after serving more than a decade as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge. He was sworn in Monday afternoon in Chicago.

“I’m so proud of the opportunity that I have been given by the voters to serve as Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court,” Reyes said. “And I’m going to work my hardest to make all of them proud of me.”

In 2008, Reyes served as the first Latino president of the Illinois Judges Association and became the first Latino to win a county-wide judicial election in Cook County.

Federico Rodriguez heads the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois. Rodriguez said Latinos represent 5 percent of the estimated 400 judges in Cook County.

Rodriguez said even with Reyes’ election, the number of judges isn’t reflective of the county’s 24 percent Latino population.

“Jesse Reyes election is significant because we can see that a name like Reyes is electable where it wouldn’t have been so before,” Rodriguez said. “So, it’s a good thing, from our perspective. There’s still a lot more work needs to be done.”

Reyes is proud of breaking these barriers, but said race shouldn’t be the only focus.

“I was elected on my record, I was elected on my 14 years as a trial court judge with a diverse experience,” Reyes said.

Reyes said he hopes community outreach will inspire young people to pursue a career in the justice system.

“I’m going to make sure that we bring together the Illinois Appellate court and the community,” he said. “Not only the Hispanic community, but all minority communities together.”