Illinois Judges Association

Pro Bono Spotlight - June 2024

This month, the Illinois Judges’ Association Pro Bono Committee is spotlighting a judge who has been instrumental in establishing and growing access to pro bono services in the 23rd Judicial Circuit, the Honorable Joseph C. Pedersen.  


Following his graduation from law school at the University of Iowa, Judge Pedersen was employed briefly as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Ogle County.  He left that job to take the position of Assistant United States Attorney in Rockford, where he was employed for 17 years prior to his appointment to the bench.

 Although he was legally constrained from providing pro bono legal services while employed as an AUSA, Judge Pedersen was active in his community and served the public in various other fashions.  He coached numerous sports teams that his children were involved with, he participated in the Knights of Columbus and he served as a volunteer mentor for first-year law students at Northern Illinois University, a role that he has continued in to this day.

Judge Pedersen was appointed as an Associate Judge in the 23rd Judicial Circuit in 2019.  At that time, there were some pro bono services offered within the circuit; however, there was not an official pro bono committee.  In 2020, Judge Pedersen was elected president of the DeKalb County Bar Association.  During his tenure as president, he successfully spearheaded efforts to formally establish the 23rd Circuit Pro Bono Committee.  At that time, Judge Pedersen became a co-chair of the committee and he continues to serve in this role. 

As co-chair of the 23rd Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, Judge Pedersen continues to promote the availability of pro bono services to the public.  Under his watch, DeKalb County has established a “Lawyer in the Lobby” program where self-represented litigants can receive assistance at no charge on certain designated days.  This fall, the committee will be sponsoring and presenting an expungement clinic to the general public. 

Judge Pedersen advises that one important mission of the Pro Bono Committee is to support, recruit and retain attorneys who are willing to provide free legal advice.  To this end, he believes it is extremely important to recognize and honor the attorneys who have provided pro bono services and the 23rd Circuit intends on holding future events to acknowledge these attorneys.  

A recent pro bono event that Judge Pedersen participated in took place at the NIU Law School.  Judge Pedersen teamed up with other local judges and attorneys and met with law students for the purpose of discussing responses to questions posted on the website Illinois Free Legal Answers.  The event was designed to provide pro bono services to those posting the questions while also giving the law students exposure to real-world problems and how seasoned attorneys would go about tackling those problems - a true win-win endeavor!  

In addition to his extensive contributions to the pro bono community, Judge Pedersen serves on the IJA Board of Directors, the IJA Wellness Committee and the ISBA Criminal Justice Section. 

The IJA wishes to extend its sincerest thanks to Judge Pedersen for all of the time and effort that he has invested in ensuring that the citizens of the 23rd Judicial Circuit have access to pro bono services!