Illinois Supreme Court
5:10 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Illinois' First Female Chief Justice Dies

The first woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court has died. Mary Ann McMorrow was 83. A statement from the Supreme Court says she died Saturday after a brief illness.

Credit Richard Foertsch/Photoprose / NIU Library

McMorrow's election to the Illinois Supreme Court in 1992 was just one of a series of achievements in a career that spanned more than 50 years. She was the only woman in her law school class, in the early 1950s. After that, she was the first woman to prosecute felonies in Cook County.

One of her colleges back then was future governor Jim Thompson, who recalled their work together in an interview in 2006 ... when McMorrow retired from the Supreme Court.

''She was one of the few women prosecutors. She was smart, she was tough, but she always treated everybody with dignity and respect, even as she did on the Supreme Court." -Jim Thompson

On the high court, McMorrow wrote a significant opinion striking down a law that capped how much money plaintiffs can collect in lawsuits. She also served a term as chief justice.

Though McMorrow was the high court's lone woman for a decade, she left the door wide open behind her: today on the Illinois Supreme Court, three of the seven justices are women.

Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report.