SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas is retiring from the bench after nearly 20 years. The judge, who has led careers in both law and athletics, plans to practice privately at a personal injury firm in Chicago.
Thomas will join his son at Power Rogers, which represented the justice in a 2006 defamation lawsuit against the Kane County Chronicle. In a statement, Thomas said he’s ready to “help clients achieve justice” in that role.
Before he started hearing cases, he enjoyed a 12 year career in the NFL as a placekicker in the 1970s and 80s, most of which he spent playing for the Chicago Bears. Before then, Thomas played football for the University of Notre Dame and even kicked a game-winning field goal for that team in the 1973 Sugar Bowl.
Thomas began practicing law in 1981, while he was still playing professional football. He practiced privately until he was elected to his first judicial position in DuPage County in 1988.
Since he was elected to the state’s highest court in 2000, Thomas said he championed courtroom civility among legal professionals, and helped expand a state supreme court commission dedicated to it. He said that commission aims to help lawyers avoid developing a “win-at-all-costs” attitude in their practices. He also served as the High Court’s chief justice from 2005 to 2008.
Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier praised Thomas’ work on the Court in a statement Monday, saying he was “utterly committed to protecting and improving our [Illinois’] system of justice.”
Thomas’ retirement takes effect at the end of the month. The Supreme Court appointed State Appellate Justice Michael Burke to the seat for the rest of the term, which ends December of 2022. Burke is not related to current Chief Justice Anne Burke.