Joy Cunningham sworn-in as Illinois Supreme Court justice

A monumental moment for the Illinois Supreme Court, women and girls.  

Joy V. Cunningham is only the second African American woman to serve on the state’s highest court and her addition will soon mean that female justices will outnumber the men.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. once said ‘You will never see the top of the staircase unless you take that first step’, and Justice Cunningham you have been taking first steps your entire life," said retired Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke, as she reflected on the woman who will be filling her vacancy.  

Alongside her son, Jeremy, First District Appellate Justice Joy Cunningham was sworn-in Thursday to the Illinois Supreme Court.  

Her journey was unique.  


She worked as a critical care nurse three nights a week while she attended law school, then began her career 40 years ago as an assistant in the Illinois Attorney General’s office.  

"And as I join the court the highest court in our state, you can count on me to be, even-handed, in upholding the rule of law in service to the people of Illinois. And I'll always, always do my best to do the right thing no matter what," said Justice Cunningham after she took her judicial oath.  

Justice Lisa Holder White became the first African American woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court when she was sworn in this past July.  

On Monday, two more female justices will be sworn in.