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ELECTIONS Jill Rose Quinn, trans attorney, runs for Cook Co. Court, Suriano vacancy
Video below
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Jill Rose Quinn is aiming for a place in history.

Should she win her primary- and general-election races, Quinn would be the first transgender judge in Illinois—ever.

Quinn's private practice experience includes working at general legal practices in Chicago, Bloomington, Lombard, Glen Ellyn and Franklin Park, where she has handled a wide variety of case types. In addition, Quinn is a member of the National LGBT Bar Association and Chicago LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Windy City Times: If you win, you would make history. What compelled you to run?

Jill Rose Quinn: I've always wanted to be a judge, and for most of my career I thought that no one would ever elect or appoint a transgender judge.

And then things started changing, and then I went to the LGBT Bar Association's convention in San Francisco one year and I met Phyllis Frye and Vicki Kolakowski, who are the two openly transgender judges sitting right now. I was amazed that there were two openly transgender judges, and Phyllis Frye said, "There [are] only two transgender judges!" Then she said, "You should really work on getting on the bench." That's what really said to be that it's possible to do it.

I've applied to be an associate judge, but this opportunity came up in my neighborhood, which is the 10th.

WCT: You're running up against a fistful of candidates...

JRQ: ... And it's an interesting compilation. Colleen Daly is the slate candidate; she seems to have the backing of the local ward organizations—which is odd because the sitting judge is Gerald Cleary [who is also running], who'd normally have the inside track. Daly seems to have a lot of advertising behind her, and she has motivation—she's run for seats in the 10th before.

Then, there are two other candidates I know less about; they're less visible. We'll see what happens.

WCT: So what's a typical day on the campaign trail?

JRQ: I'm still running a law practice, so it always starts off with me working in the office and trying to catch up on my legal responsibilities—answering emails, sending out taxes, scheduling real-estate closings, preparing for court. Then I work around that with my campaign manager, who keeps me [up to date] on what events are going on. And we're composing questions to answer for my website, like "What does a circuit court judge do?"

People don't a lot about judges. That's a truly amazing thing. It's one of the parts of the legal system that touches people—but they don't know what a judge does.

I also look to see where I can meet people, we work on phone lists and call up volunteers—things like that.

WCT: The grind of it all...

JRQ: It's exciting! [Both laugh.] But maybe if I have to run four or five times, it won't be as exciting.

WCT: What do you feel is your biggest advantage and your biggest challenge in this race?

JRQ: My biggest challenge is getting my name out there so people know who I am. My biggest advantage is that, if people know who I am, they're going to like me and elect me. I have good experience, I have a broad legal background, I've done a lot of different things, I've represented a lot of people and I've counseled a lot of people over 35 years.

I think I can bring to the bench a lot of experience. Just [interacting] with different people just broadens your mind and gives you a better feel for what you're doing. I just think I'm competent to look into people's lives and make fair decisions about them.

WCT: Are you ever concerned that you might have problems with objectivity if a case involves a matter that's close to your heart?

JRQ: I don't want to say "no" off the top of my head, because that sounds fake. I ultimately do not think I'll make a decision that runs contrary to what society needs or what society expects or what the law requires. I don't think I would say, "Gee, it's okay that you murdered a guy because he's a bad guy." I'm not going to go that far, even if that's the cosmically correct result.

I think you have to be responsible to make decisions that are consistent. That's what people need in law—and in everything.

WCT: In your questionnaire, you said that restorative-justice models can be useful and appropriate under certain circumstances. Could you give one such circumstance?

JRQ: It might be useful in a contract situation. People might have a contract where neither has gotten what they want, and it might be better to put them in the positions that they were in before the contract instead of punishing them.

In another instance, there's hate-crime legislation that essentially says that you can include, as part of the sentence, appropriate community service. That is kind of a restorative justice, where you can paint over a swastika or work at the Holocaust Museum for two weeks; you can learn what's wrong with your hate. A restorative-justice model could work in any situation where a defendant is amenable to education.

WCT: You've already talked about this a little bit, but why do you feel we need more judges from the LGBTQ community?

JRQ: Well, we need more judges reflective of our society. We need to have those viewpoints as part of the collective decision-making process—from the point of view of a trans kid and thinks he or she is an oddball, I think it's good to see trans people in positions of authority.

But diversity is always a good idea, because we're not getting any less diverse—we're getting more diverse. And the sooner people realize that, the better off we'll be, as a society.

I was a community organizer in Houston, Texas; I worked for an organization called ACORN that got a lot of real bad press a few years ago [over questionable practices], but it was undeservedly bad press. However, the point of my story is that I worked with white, rural residents who would say all these bad things about Black people and Mexicans. But you'd get together with them and have them meet with people from [minority] neighborhoods—and then they'd be laughing and even visiting each other.

Maybe it's not that simple but, in my mind, if you get people together they'll realize that we're all made of the same stuff.

WCT: That's one of the things I've mentioned happens in large cities like Chicago: There's plenty of cultural diversity, but little cultural interaction.

JRQ: Right. I agree with that. It is one of the most segregated cities in the country, and I think we have to be conscious about that in everything we do. We have to talk better with each other.

WCT: I'd like to end on a lighter note. Could you tell the readers an interesting factoid about yourself?

JRQ: Well, I really came to enjoy sports later in life—and I think that had to do with my gender confusion. I never played baseball, although I watched it all the time—but then I started playing it, and it opened my mind and my body. Also, I started running about 10 years ago. The first time, I ran about 60 feet, but I kept at it; within a couple years, I ran my first marathon.

See . Also, Quinn has an ad that responds to Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives' anti-trans ad; it is at .

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