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Chief judge announces he is retiring Jan. 6

Judge Fred Foreman swears Lake County's 1st Case Review Board members courthouse WaukeganThursday February 21 2013. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

Judge Fred Foreman swears in Lake County's 1st Case Review Board members at the courthouse in Waukeganon Thursday, February 21, 2013. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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Circuit Judge
John Phillips

Circuit Judge John Phillips was unanimously elected Chief Judge by his 14 fellow circuit judges on Monday at the Circuit Judges annual December meeting. Judge Phillips will commence his term as Chief Judge on Friday and will serve as chief judge for a one-year term.

“I am honored to be elected chief judge for the 19th Judicial Circuit by my peers on the Circuit Court. I look forward to starting my term on Jan. 6, 2014, and continuing the tradition of leadership shown by my predecessors,” Phillips said.

“The 19th Judicial Circuit and citizens of Lake County are fortunate to have a chief judge with Judge Phillips’ experience and management skills. He enjoys an excellent reputation in the legal community,” Judge Fred Foreman said.

Phillips is currently the acting chief judge and presiding judge of the Specialty Courts Division.

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Updated: February 3, 2014 3:44PM

Early next year, one of the most familiar figures in Lake County legal history will be stepping down from office.

Chief Judge Fred Foreman announced Tuesday that he will be retiring Jan. 6, and that Judge John Phillips will be appointed as the new chief judge.

Foreman, 65, began his legal career as a law clerk in the current Lake County Courthouse in 1973, just three years after the building was constructed.

Since then he has been a public defender, a prosecutor, Lake County State’s Attorney, U.S. Attorney for Chicago, a felony judge and now chief judge of the Lake County Circuit Court.

“It’s been a ride, that’s for sure,” Foreman said Tuesday. “I’m a judge in the same courthouse I started in 40 years ago as a law clerk.”

Forman said he has a “bucket list” for retirement including plenty of travel and time with his family, including three grandchildren. He plans to still offer pro bono advice and consulting help with plans for the expansion of the courthouse, and may also serve on pro bono committees locally.

The pinnacle of Foreman’s legal career may have been his appointment in 1990 as U.S. Attorney for Chicago by President George H. W. Bush, an office he held for three years.

Forman also served as Lake County State’s Attorney, first elected to the office in 1980 and holding it until his 1990 appointment as U.S. Attorney.

In 1993, he joined the Chicago law firm of Freeborn & Peters, where he stayed until 2004, when he was elected as a judge in Lake County Circuit Court.

He served as a felony judge from 2004 to 2012, when he was appointed chief judge.

His early career began with an internship with the Lake County Public Defender’s Office, where he was hired full time in 1974. He became an assistant state’s attorney in 1976 and held that title until his election as Lake County State’s Attorney.

Looking back, Foreman said “being able to serve both in law enforcement and in private practice” was one of the highlights of his career, and that he feels one of his most important accomplishments was hiring and helping to advance the career of many successful people in the Lake County legal community, including several judges.

Foreman’s tall frame is nearly impossible to miss in the Lake County Courthouse and County Building, and he acknowledged Tuesday that “I’m pretty familiar in the courthouse.”

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