Illinois Judge Association

Pro Bono Spotlight – September 2021

Our September spotlight is Retired Judge Annette A. Eckert.  Judge Eckert served on the bench from 1991 until 2010.  She was elected as the first female circuit judge in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in 2002, serving in the felony trial division until her retirement in 2010.  During her judicial career, she also taught at higher educational institutions, such as the Loyola University School of Law and the Southwestern Illinois College Police Academy.  In addition, she served as faculty for numerous judicial education conferences, both before and after retirement.

In 2014, Judge Eckert founded the St. Clair County Teen Court and has served as its volunteer executive director since its inception.  She researched successful teen courts throughout the state and determined to start one in St. Clair County as an initiative of the Juvenile Justice Council in partnership with the State’s Attorney’s Office.  Under the program, first-time non-violent youth offenders are held accountable rather than receiving traditional punitive sanctions, thereby focusing on restorative justice.  

The initial funding for the program came from a state grant, but the funding was lost in 2017.  In order to keep the program going, Judge Eckert led the effort to establish the Teen Court Foundation of St. Clair County as a non-profit organization.  She recruited a Board of Directors and led efforts to obtain corporate and individual contributions.  Under her leadership, 84 adults volunteered and 290 high school students from 13 St. Clair County high schools served as peer jurors.  In 2019, she helped the Monroe County and Randolph County Regional Offices of Education start teen courts.  The manual which she co-authored, entitled “Implementing Teen Courts – A Restorative Justice Peer Jury Guide and Manual”, has been posted on the Southern Illinois University’s School of Law website and has been utilized by teen courts throughout the state.

Since December 2015, when the first teen court session was held, 204 young adults have completed their remedy and graduated.  The recidivism rate of those who graduated in the past five years is an impressive 8.3%.  When a teen graduates, his or her record is expunged so that the youth can move forward with a clean record.  Because of Judge Eckert’s vision, diligence and leadership, the program is a great success.  It has also led to Judge Eckert being recognized as one of ten women from the St. Louis area to be named as a “Woman of Achievement” from the Women of Achievement organization.  She will be featured in a television broadcast airing on PBS on September 13th.  

For more information about the program, visit its website at