Illinois Judges Association

Pro Bono - September 2022

     Justice Mary Kay Rochford has made enormous improvements to litigants’ experience in Illinois courts through her commitment to the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (Commission). The Supreme Court created the Commission in June 2012 to promote, facilitate and enhance access to Illinois' civil courts for all Illinois residents. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Justice Rochford to the newly created Commission as the chosen representative of the Chicago Bar Foundation in 2012. Since then, Justice Rochford has volunteered countless hours to the Commission and its goals. 

     In 2015 Justice Rochford was appointed to Chair the Commission, a role she continues to fill today. As the Commission’s Chair, Justice Rochford leads the initiation of programs designed to ensure equal access to our state courts for the most vulnerable Illinoisians. Under Justice Rochford’s leadership the Commission now has numerous initiatives that address the needs of Illinois litigants including statewide simplified, standard forms, Illinois Court Help, Illinois Court Navigator Network, Appellate Resources Program, Language Access Programs including court interpreters, Disability Access programs and the Community Trust Committee. These initiatives have enhanced court users' experiences exponentially, making the system easier to understand and use.

     During her time with the Commission, Justice Rochford also served as the Co-Chair of the Commission’s Appellate Committee and Standardized Forms Committee. On the Standardized Forms Committee she was instrumental in launching the first statewide standardized plain-language court forms for use by self-represented litigants. Today, due in large part to Justice Rochford’s work, Illinois courts have over 300 statewide standard court forms. Justice Rochford’s work on the Appellate Committee has broadened access points to information relating to appeals.  The Commission partnered with Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) to transform content on the Illinois Courts’ website to their platform where there is a landing page for civil appeals, and a toolbox to assist with the steps in an appeal. These are just a couple of examples of how Illinois courts have expanded access, due to Justice Rochford’s tireless commitment to leveling the playing field for all court users.  
     Justice Rochford has been a member of the judiciary since 1991 where she has served as an Associate Judge and Circuit Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County. There Justice Rochford was assigned to the Chancery and Suburban Law Divisions and First and Second Municipal Districts. She was active in court committees seeking to address community issues relating to domestic violence, driving under the influence, and youthful offenders. She was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in November 2010 where she currently serves in the First District.
     While on the bench Justice Rochford has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Bar Foundation, the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association and the Law Council of her alma mater, University of Notre Dame Law School. Justice Rochford is also a member of the Illinois Judicial Conference, Supreme Court Committee on Equality, the Appellate Administrative Committee, and the Judicial Branch Staff Education Committee. She was the Vice Chair and later Chair of the Executive Committee of the First District Appellate Court and a topic editor for the Civil Law and Procedure Bench Book.
     She has received the John Paul Stevens Award from the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Foundation, the Socrates Dikastes Award from the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois, the Early Adopter Award from Illinois Legal Aid Online, and the Annual Judge’s Award from the North Suburban Bar Association.
     Mary K. Rochford has been a role model and mentor to many. She has set a high bar for giving back to her profession and exemplifies what it is to volunteer. We are grateful for her leadership and congratulate her on her many achievements.