Judge Katherine Gorman

Circuit Judge Elect, Tenth Judicial Circuit
Photography by Kira Kwon

I grew up and currently reside in Washington, Illinois. My parents are John and Susan Gorman, and I am the oldest of three girls. I attended the University of Illinois, where I received my undergraduate degree, and from there, I went straight to Southern Illinois University Law School, where I met my husband, Jim Hubler.

After completing law school, I returned to the Peoria area, where I enjoyed a very diverse law practice with Prusak & Winne. While there, I married my husband, then Ellie was born in 2001, and five years later, Ava came along.

After 14 years of private practice, I was appointed an associate judge in 2007. Thereafter, I ran for a circuit judge position that encompasses five counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, Stark and Putnam. On November 6th, I ran with no opponent on the ballot.

Please reflect upon your major accomplishments of 2012.
In the late summer of 2011, I made the decision to run for a circuit-wide judicial position that became vacant as a result of Judge Jim Shadid being appointed to the federal bench. It was not a decision I took lightly. Plenty of people attempted to dissuade me because I had run for a circuit-wide position in 2010 and lost. The prevailing view of those who tried to discourage me was that a woman can't be elected in the Tenth Judicial Circuit, even if she is qualified. And if history was any indication, that was true.

After considering the financial and emotional costs of a campaign with my family, I decided that this was a risk worth taking. At that time, it appeared that there would be a primary opponent and an opponent in the general election. People were extremely willing to help, and given my lack of political experience, I really needed it. The campaign required countless appearances, dinners, debates, parades, never-ending phone calls, and other tasks that are part of being a candidate in five counties.

From mid-October until the primary, many weekday evenings and weekends were filled. In addition, I had a full-time job and a busy home life. As the campaign evolved, the outpouring of support was beyond anything I could have imagined. It took on a life of its own. When I was weary, the support is what got me through the political process, which at times is extremely distasteful. On March 20, 2012, the hard work of my supporters paid off, and I won the primary election. It was very gratifying to have so many people work so tirelessly on my behalf.

In April, my opponent in the general election, Chris Spanos, graciously withdrew his candidacy, so there was no opponent on the ballot. On December 3, 2012, I will be sworn in as a circuit judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit.

What is your secret to maintaining a balance between your work and personal life?
My secret is very simple. My husband and I live very near my parents and sister. Lifelong friends are an integral part of my life as well. Having grown up in Washington, we have the benefit of a great many resources to assist with our girls. We have many people who are invested in our family and who are like family to us. My husband and I could not do it without our family and friends. It is a great comfort to know that my family is being cared for by people who love them. That allows me to focus on work while I am there. While at work, I try to stay organized so I can focus on my family when I'm home.

Did you have a mentor in the early stages of your career?
My mentor and father, John Gorman, has always been an inspiration to me. He is currently a federal magistrate judge. Prior to being appointed to that position, he was a circuit court judge in the Tenth Judicial Circuit. He practiced law for 12 years before his appointment to the bench as an associate judge in 1979. Throughout my life, I have had the benefit of his encouragement and wisdom, both personally and professionally. My mother, Susan Gorman, has always conducted herself with grace and class; she taught me how to treat people with kindness and compassion.

For 14 years, I practiced law with Max Prusak and Joe Winne. They are both great examples to emulate: fair-minded, even-tempered problem solvers. Both gentlemen took the time to teach me how to practice law with humor and patience. They helped me see the bigger picture and most importantly, taught me discretion—that you may lose the battle but still win the war.

Lastly, the women who practiced law and served as judges in the Peoria area helped me see that you can practice a profession and raise a family. You can be extremely capable without being strident, and you can be competent without regard to gender.

What advice would you give to a young, up-and-coming female professional?
Being a woman is not a disadvantage. There is nothing wrong with behaving like one. There is a notion, particularly when you are young, that you need to act “tough;” sometimes, that translates into being mean and nasty. While it might seem like a good idea at the moment, it diminishes you. Know your position. Don't apologize for it. Figure out what is actually important, and let the little things go. It does not make you a pushover; it shows you have good judgment. People will respect you for having the good sense to realize what issues are important. You can disagree with someone without being disagreeable. Use humor. It is also helpful to know a little bit about sports.

What is one goal you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
I want to raise my children so that they are happy, healthy, productive adults.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Hometown, diplomatic and careful.

How do you unwind after a long day of work?
I enjoy running with my kids to their various activities.

If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
My Grandma Gorman. She died when I was an infant, and I would love to hear her history.

What is your greatest fear?
Change. iBi