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‘Historic Appointment’: First Black Woman to Serve on Illinois Supreme Court

Appellate Court Justice Lisa Holder White, a Republican, will make history as the first Black woman to sit on Illinois’ highest judicial bench.

Holder White was selected to replace Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman, who is retiring this summer, according to reports.

Illinois Appellate Court Justice Lisa Holder White will make history in July when she starts her term on the Illinois Supreme Court. (Photo: Twitter/Illinois Supreme Court)

“Being appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court is the honor of a lifetime. I am humbled by the confidence Justice Rita B. Garman and the entire Court have placed in me,” Holder White said.

“My service to the judiciary for the past 21 years has helped prepare me for this historic moment. I look forward to the privilege of resolving matters my fellow citizens bring before the Court.”

The appointment announced Tuesday is the second time Holder White, 54, has broken barriers in the judicial system. In 2013, she was sworn in as the first Black appellate judge in Illinois Appellate Court’s fourth district. She started her judgeship as an associate judge in 2001. Holder White became a circuit judge eight years later.

Holder White is a prominent leader among jurists. She serves on Illinois’ Supreme Court’s Judicial Conference Committee on Education, where she makes decisions about further education for state judges. She also has worked to address inequities in the legal system.

“In the past, many Blacks have not had the opportunities that I’ve had, the opportunity to get my education, to get a law degree, to work as an attorney, to serve as a judge,” Holder White told the Chicago Tribune.

“I’m grateful. And this is important not just for the Black community but for the community as a whole,” she said. “It shows the importance and value of coming together and helping each other.”

Holder White’s appointment comes a little over a month after the first Black woman was appointed to the U.S Supreme Court. Illinoisans selected Charles Freeman as the state Supreme Court’s first Black justice in 1990. He retired in 2018, after serving on the court for 28 years, reports show.

Holder White will officially sit on the high-ranking bench on July 8. Her term will expire on Dec. 2, 2024, according to reports.

Several Black state leaders and legal eagles applauded the appointment as news broke this week.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled and inspired by the historic appointment of Lisa Holder White to the Illinois Supreme Court. Her qualifications and dedication to fair and equitable justice are remarkable,” said Erika Harold, a Black woman and head of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

“The appointment of Justice Holder White feels like a significant shift in what’s possible for Black women and all people across Illinois,” said Harold, who has worked alongside Holder White.

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