SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – A replacement has been named for Rita Garman, Illinois’ longest-serving Supreme Court justice. She announced she would be retiring on July 7. The day will mark 48 and a half years since she first became a judge.
Garman’s replacement, Fourth District Appellate Justice Lisa Holder White, will become the first black woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Lisa Holder White is an outstanding jurist and I know she will be a wonderful Supreme Court justice,” Garman said.
Holder White said the appointment feels like the honor of a lifetime, and Garman has been a role model her entire career.
When Garman was appointed in 2001, she was the second woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court.
“It was the first time in my judicial career there was another woman in the room. I am really pleased and thrilled that there are many more women now in positions of importance in the judiciary,” Garman said.
She’s said she’s also thrilled to be passing the torch to another trailblazing woman.
“I met Justice Garman on March 5, 2001, which is the day I was sworn in as an associate judge. At that time, she was running for the Illinois Supreme Court,” Holder White said.
Garman swore her in that day. And since then, Holder White said she’s been a role model.
“I’ve had a lot of people say to me, ‘you deserve this, you’ve earned this, we’re so proud of you.’ I certainly appreciate those comments but when I think about it, what it makes me think about is the fact that so many women like me never had an opportunity like this,” Holder White said.
She was born and raised in Macon County, and said it’s bittersweet to trade her Decatur office for a spot in Springfield. But she’s filled with gratitude, and would pass on her mother’s advice to any young girl hoping to follow in her footsteps.
“She says, ‘bloom where you’re planted.’ So, I’ve tried to do that throughout my career, just enjoying and pursuing opportunities and working my very hardest to do the very best I can,” Holder White said.
Garman’s advice? Set your goals high… You may end up in the highest court.
“Oftentimes, you can achieve a lot more than you ever imagined you possibly could,” she said.
Garman said retiring wasn’t an easy decision, but she feels like it’s the right time. Her career began in 1974. During her 21 years on the Illinois Supreme Court, she wrote 240 opinions for the court, not including dissents or special concurrences.
Now, Garman’s looking forward to travelling and spending time with her five grandchildren. She said she appreciates the public’s confidence in her over the years, and she’s happy to watch Holder White replace her.
“It’s been an awesome responsibility, but a real privilege and an honor to serve,” Garman said.