Illinois Judges Association

Pro Bono Spotlight - December 2023

This month, the Illinois Judges’ Association Pro Bono Committee is spotlighting a judge who has focused on giving back to her community and providing access to the legal system for all, the Honorable Sandra Parga.  

Born in Illinois, Judge Parga is a first-generation American who was born to Mexican parents.  During her early years, only Spanish was spoken at her home and she did not learn to speak English until she attended elementary school.  As Judge Parga puts it, her parents instilled a strong work ethic in her and her brother, whether they wanted it or not.  As a child, Judge Parga spent summers in Mexico with her grandparents, and she has always maintained very close ties with the Spanish-speaking community. 

At a very young age, Judge Parga knew that she wanted to help others and she set her sights on a career as a lawyer.  In addition to being a first-generation American, she was the first person in her family to pursue a college education.  She obtained her undergraduate degree at DePaul University and attended Cornell University for law school.  While in law school, she had internships focused on prisoners’ rights and assisting non-citizens with the immigration process. 

Upon her graduation from law school, Judge Parga returned to Illinois and took a job with Prairie State Legal Services, providing counsel to low-income individuals, for approximately 2 ½ years.  In addition to representing parties, Judge Parga was also active in Prairie State’s monthly Spanish-language divorce clinic where she helped unrepresented litigants navigate the divorce process.  Even after leaving her employment with Prairie State, she continued serving the Spanish-speaking community by continuing her participation in the monthly clinic.    

Judge Parga left Prairie State to take a job with the Kane County Public Defender’s office, where she worked for the next 2 years of her career.  While with the Public Defender’s office, Judge Parga was assigned to handle criminal matters, abuse and neglect cases and juvenile delinquency cases on behalf of the indigent.  

In 1999, Judge Parga went into private practice with a highly reputable law firm with offices in Elgin and Aurora.   While there, Judge Parga handled various types of matters and specialized in criminal defense and family law.  She served the 16th Judicial Circuit as both a mediator and Guardian ad Litem in family cases, and takes special pride in the pro bono assignments she completed in both of those roles.  While in private practice, Judge Parga frequently overextended her desire to assist low-income clients and the partners at the firm would often advise her against being involved in cases without being paid.  Judge Parga would hear and immediately disregard the advice and continue serving those in need without being compensated adequately.   

While in private practice, Judge Parga was extremely active within her community.  Among many other endeavors, she participated in career days at multiple schools in the Elgin area, she volunteered at the Salvation Army and she participated in numerous City of Elgin Christmas events to provide underprivileged families with holiday gifts.  She also served on the boards of Mutual Ground and the Fox Valley Girl Scouts.   

In 2017, Judge Parga was appointed as an Associate Judge in Kane County.  Although no longer able to provide pro bono legal services, Judge Parga has continued her philanthropic ways and maintaining her presence in the community.  She is an active member of her church and she volunteers at Lazarus House on a monthly basis.  She also volunteers with the Fox Valley Literacy Program helping adults to learn English.  In 2023, Judge Parga was the unofficial chairperson of the 16th Judicial Circuit’s efforts to participate in the IJA’s Reading in Schools initiative.  In this role, she coordinated judges appearing in many Kane County schools to read to students and participate in question and answer sessions.   

In her role as Associate Judge, Judge Parga has continued to ensure access to justice for the underprivileged and underrepresented.  She has received various appointments from the Supreme Court, including chairman of the Language Access Committee.  In this role, Judge Parga, along with several other Kane County judges, completely revamped Kane County’s system for providing interpreters to ensure that certified interpreters are available for all litigation within the county.  In the upcoming year, she will set out to bring this type of access to litigants statewide.  Judge Parga was also an integral part of developing appropriate protocols for remote court appearances, many of which remain in place today.  

Judge Parga lives by the concept of trying to leave things in a better place than when she found them.  The IJA Pro Bono Committee wants to thanks Judge Parga for all of her efforts in doing just that!