Thursday, March 7, 2019

Mary Ann McMorrow, was the first female Supreme Court Justice in Illinois.

Justice Mary Ann McMorrow
Mary Ann Grohwin was born on January 16, 1930, to Roman and Emily Grohwin and grew up in a Roman Catholic household on the northwest side of Chicago. As a child, she became a gifted pianist after practicing on the piano her father gave to her mother as an anniversary gift. She graduated from Immaculata High School and later Rosary College, now Dominican University, in River Forest. 

Mary Ann Grohwin enrolled in law school at the advice of her mother, who believed her daughter could argue all kinds of viewpoints after hearing her debate with friends and around the house. Although she was the only woman in the 1953 graduating class at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, her peers elected her class president and associate editor of the law review, family said.

After graduation, Mary Ann Grohwin worked for the law firm of Riordan & Linklater before she was hired as an assistant state's attorney in Cook County, assigned to the Criminal Division, and was the first woman to prosecute felony cases in Cook County.

There, she met her husband, Emmett McMorrow, a Chicago police lieutenant. The two married in 1962 and had one daughter, Mary Ann (born 1963).

In 1976, Justice McMorrow was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court and then, a decade later, to the Illinois Appellate Court. She was the first woman to lead the appellate court's executive committee.

Later, she was elected as the first female justice in 1992 to the Illinois supreme court.

With her election as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois in May 2002, she became the first woman to head any of the three branches of state government. "When I went to law school, women couldn't even dream of such a thing,” Justice McMorrow said in 2002, shortly after being voted into the court's highest position. “I hope this would forever indicate that there's nothing that limits women in any job or any profession.”

Very few women were a part of the legal field before Justice McMorrow, who became a role model because she did so well with the opportunities she was given, said federal appeals court Judge Ilana Rovner, a longtime friend.

“That gave the impetus for the hiring of other women,” Rovner said. “She was a trailblazer and a very fine human being.”

In a statement, Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride called Justice McMorrow “top-tier” and said she was an inspiration to all lawyers across the state for her “courage, perseverance, wisdom and character.”
Outside of her career, Justice McMorrow was active in all kinds of charities and foundations. Faith was a huge part of her life, as was her church, St Mary of the Woods Catholic Church in Chicago. She loved the opera and going out with friends to different restaurants.

Justice McMorrow was also known for her kindness and compassion. She stayed connected to the legal community after retirement and mentored young women wanting to become lawyers or judges, said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis, also a friend.

Although she was a pioneer, Justice McMorrow often told those around her she had no intentions of breaking such barriers as a lawyer or during her 30 years serving the Illinois courts. “I just simply tried to do my best in every task that was presented to me,” she said.

Justice McMorrow retired from the bench on July 5, 2006.

Mary Ann Grohwin died on February 23, 2013, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, aged 83, from undisclosed causes.

Her daughter, Dr. Mary Ann McMorrow, PSY.D, is a clinical psychologist in Chicago.

She was the 1991 recipient of the "Medal of Excellence" award from Loyola University Chicago School of Law's Alumni Association. She also was awarded the Chicago Bar Association's Justice John Paul Stevens Award and the 1996 The Fellows of the Illinois Bar Foundation award for Distinguished Service to Law and Society.

Mary Ann McMorrow was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 2007 in the area of Government and Law.

Chief Justice McMorrow was a member of the:
Illinois State Bar Association and Chicago Bar Associations
Women's Bar Association of Illinois
American Inns of Court (Master Bencher)
American Judicature Society
National Association of Women Judges
Illinois Judges' Association (Board of Directors)

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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