Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Justice McMorrow helped my daughter with an assignment in 8th grade

Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow passed away Saturday. The Illinois Supreme Court has issued this tribute to Justice McMorrow (Chief Justice Kilbride has also issued a statement concerning McMorrow’s passing). Jerry Crimmins and John Flynn Rooney have a nice article about Justice McMorrow’s life and career in today's Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required). I can’t improve on these tributes, but I would like to add my own little story.

In the Spring of 1998 I was virtually unemployed. I’d just left the law firm where I’d practiced for 18 years and set up a new ‘eat what you kill’ partnership arrangement with a college classmate, Mark Boyle. A couple of weeks into my new venture, I was beginning to realize that I had vastly overestimated the amount of business that would follow me from the old firm. About the only thing I could count on keeping at that point was my column in the Law Bulletin (thank you, Paul Zelewsky); I wrote a lot of columns in 1998.

The kids' school calendar progresses without regard to the concerns of an anxious father. Thus, I was informed in due course about Take Your Daughter to Work Day. My oldest girl, Katie, then in 8th grade, was expected to accompany me to work – and write a paper about her experiences. I was fortunate to scrounge one matter for court that day (covering for my partner), but it only involved presenting a motion in an 11th floor Daley Center Courtroom and getting a briefing schedule.

Even I understood that this would not give Katie a lot to write about. However, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois had scheduled a reception that evening. Hoping that this might somehow rescue Katie’s Take Your Daughter to Work Day experience, I bought two tickets. As I recall, Judge Henry A. Budzinski, a law school classmate of my father's, was one of the honorees. I could count on him to say something nice to Katie about her grandfather (and he did).

Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow was the other honoree.

You’ve read in each of Justice McMorrow’s obituaries that she was the only woman in her graduating class at Loyola University Law School in 1953. In fact, she was one of the very few women in the entire university during the early 1950s. My mother, who was enrolled in what was then called the School of Commerce, was another. (Completely unverifiable family tradition has it that there were only four women at Loyola’s downtown campus when my mother was there; there were none at Loyola’s Rogers Park campus.) When I introduced myself and Katie to Justice McMorrow, the justice was kind enough to say something like, "Oh, yes, you write those articles" -- building me up for my daughter's sake. I quickly mentioned my mother's overlapping attendance at Loyola –- and Justice McMorrow was just as quick to assure my daughter (whether it was true or not) that she well remembered Katie’s grandmother. Katie was thrilled (and now she had plenty for her paper, too).

Etiquette on these occasions requires the honoree to merely nod at each introduction, shake hands, and turn to the next person in line. Instead, Justice McMorrow went out of her way to make my daughter welcome. I was very grateful to Justice McMorrow for her kindness and graciousness that evening. I still am.

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