The Crusader Newspaper Group

African American judges asking voters to not forget them

PICTURED L-R: State Supreme Court Justice Joy Virginia Cunningham, State Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs and Judge Owens J. Shelby

Vote for highly qualified judges on the March 19th ballot

While Black History Month will have come and gone by the time of the much-anticipated March 19th presidential primary, African American judges don’t want you to forget their names will be on the ballot and they need your support.

One of those on the ballot is Illinois Supreme Court Justice Joy Virginia Cunningham, who has a long legal and judicial history.

On the Appellate Court for 16 years until December of 2022 when the Illinois Supreme Court tapped her to succeed Justice Anne M. Burke who retired from the Supreme Court, Cunningham is serving out Burke’s term which ends this year.

Born in Harlem, NY, Justice Cunningham has been in Illinois for many years. 

“I have been on all three levels of the court system in Illinois” she said. 

She has been a trial court judge, an Appellate Court judge, and now sits on the Illinois Supreme Court which is a ten-year term. However, Cunningham said she has to be elected first.

She attended grammar school in New York City, the Resurrection Catholic School, and went to the City University of New York for her undergraduate degree, and to the University of Illinois’ Law School.

Her campaign theme is, “I am your Supreme Court Justice. There are three Supreme Court Justices from Cook County. I feel as though I am the Supreme Court Justice for all of the people of Cook County regardless of their race, their ethnicity, their sex, their gender, their sexual orientation. Whatever differences you may have, I am your Supreme Court Justice.

“The Supreme Court selected me because of my experience that I bring a depth of credentials to the table and in my mind that means I bring that to the table for all the residents of Cook County, and I feel very proud of that,” Cunningham said. Her ballot punch number is 121.

Another judge’s name on the ballot is that of Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs who was born in Baltimore, MD. She is one of nine children born to a Baptist pastor. She attended Morgan State College for her undergraduate degree, later earning a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Maryland, and her law degree from IIT Chicago Kent.

Cobbs has been a judge since 2011, and has been a Justice on the Illinois Appellate Court for nine years. Cobbs is one of the Justices the Illinois Supreme Court assigned to the Appellate Court in 2015.

Her theme is “fairness and equality.” 

“We must always make certain that the judges who are sitting on our benches are fair and that they treat everybody that comes before them equally so that there is no one who leaves the courtroom who feels they were not heard.”

It is also important people don’t leave the courtroom, Cobbs said, feeling “the judge did not treat them fairly and that they were not treated equally when the judge made his or her ruling,” she told the Chicago Crusader  during an interview Saturday, February 17.

The Appellate Court in the First District covers Cook County. Cobbs’ ballot punch number is 132. “I say you know what to do. Punch 132.”

Judge Owens J. Shelby was born and raised on Chicago’s West Side. He has a passion for serving the community.

Having attended St. Angela School, Providence St. Mel High School, Morehouse College and the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Judge Shelby began his legal career as a contract attorney for the Loevy and Loevy law firm. There, he worked on a class action lawsuit against the Cook County Department of Corrections for the inhumane treatment of individuals who had been arrested.

Shelby moved on to work as an assistant counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Springfield, IL where he served on several key committees. Shelby began as an assistant state’s attorney for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in July, 2008.

After 14 years, Shelby was chosen to work in the Community Justice Center-West where he collaborated with community stakeholders, law enforcement and residents to create programming and seminars aimed at crime prevention.

As part of his job, Shelby gives presentations on Internet safety, domestic violence, and other hot button issues. In his spare time, he mentors youth, speaks on career days and at other community outreach programs, including coaching youth basketball and serving on community organization boards. Shelby’s ballot punch number is 162

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