SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was sworn in Monday as the 120th chief justice of the state's highest court during an installation ceremony in Springfield.
Karmeier, 76, was sworn in by Justice Rita Garman, who served three years as chief justice.
In remarks after being sworn in, Karmeier frequently referenced his family and others who helped him climb the legal ranks. He noted he was wearing a robe that formally belonged to former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Byron House.
"No one can stand here, or sit in this position, can do so without being profoundly moved," he said.
Karmeier was also complimentary of his colleagues, with whom he served since 2004.
"Thank you for your individual and collective wisdom, collegiality and strength," he said. "Thank you for your support. You hold special place in my heart."
Karmeier has served on the Supreme Court since 2004 and was unanimously chosen by his peers to become chief administrative officer of the state's judicial system. However, his tenure has seen controversy with plaintiffs' attorneys alleging over the years that he's partial to corporate special interests.
After winning office in a 2004 campaign that set national fundraising records, he was in the spotlight for the court's decision to overturn a $10.1 billion class-action judgment against tobacco company Philip Morris. The court first overturned the judgment in 2005 and again in 2015 after the lawsuit was revived.
Plaintiffs' attorneys had wanted Karmeier recused from the case, saying he'd received contributions from Philip Morris, which Karmeier denied.
In 2014, during Karmeier's retention election for another 10-year term, a group of plaintiff's attorneys spent more than $1 million to try and oust him, claiming he was too tight with business. Similar fights rippled out nationwide over state supreme court seats, part of a long-simmering battle between plaintiffs' attorneys and big business.
Karmeier has insisted there was no conflict and refused to step aside.
"Since joining the court in 2004, I have had the privilege of serving under five different chief justices, all of whom have done an outstanding job," Karmeier said Monday. "I will do my very best to live up to the high standard they have set."
While on the state's high court, Karmeier has served as the liaison to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and as chair of the Illinois Courts Commission, which hears and decides cases against judges charged with misconduct.
Karmeier, from the southwest Illinois community of Nashville, received his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Illinois. He clerked for former Justice House in the 1960s, served as Washington County state's attorney and was in private practice for over two decades. He was also a Washington County circuit judge for nearly 20 years.
Karmeier is married and has two children and six grandchildren.