Listen in to the latest episode of Everyday Law, as our special guest, Appellate Justice Mary Schostok, discusses her background, the workings of the appellate court and her charitable work, including her foundation — Michael Matters!
Background of Justice Mary Schostok
Justice Mary Schostok currently presides on the Illinois Appellate Court of the Second District in Elgin, Illinois. She has served as a prosecuting attorney, associate judge and circuit judge in Lake County, Illinois. In addition to her legal endeavors, Schostok also is involved in charitable work with “Michael Matters”, a charitable foundation honoring her late husband.
Justice Schostok grew up in a large close-knit family in a small town in Pennsylvania. She obtained an associate’s degree and worked as a legal secretary. This work led Schostok to think about a career as a lawyer. She completed a four-year college degree, followed by law school. At law school in Columbus, Ohio, she met her future husband, Michael Schostok. Upon graduation from law school, Schostok worked in Pennsylvania for one year. Ultimately, she relocated to Lake County, Illinois when she and Michael married.
Lake County Career
Initially, Justice Schostok worked at the Lake County States Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor. For nine months, both Schostok and her husband worked as prosecutors in Lake County. They even tried an armed robbery case together as the first Lake County husband and wife team. Schostok’s husband went on to private practice while she spent 10 years in the States Attorney’s Office. She worked in a variety of areas including a position of Chief of Special Investigations before becoming a judge.
Justice Schostok was appointed as a Lake County Associate Judge and handled traffic and domestic violence cases for her first few years on the bench. She was then appointed to be a Circuit Judge and later ran for that position and won. As a Circuit Judge, Schostok presided in felony and probate courtrooms. While a judge in the Law Division, Schostok was asked to run for the Second District Appellate Court which includes Lake County and 12 other northern Illinois counties.
Justice Schostok has enjoyed her life in the law. Prosecuting and trying cases was exciting and gratifying as she felt that she was fighting for justice. Being a trial judge required a shift from advocating to becoming an impartial decision-maker. The work of an appellate justice is more academic and allows time to really delve into the law and can be compared to a referee who reviews a play.
Second District Illinois Appellate Court
The Appellate Court is a court of review. Often times, it is the only opportunity for a review as the Appellate Court must review almost all of the cases presented to it.; whereas the Illinois Supreme Court may choose the cases it wishes to hear. A case reviewed by the Appellate Court is basically a case on paper. This includes a transcript of the trial, the admitted evidence and the briefs filed by the attorneys. In three quarters of cases on appellate review, the justices never hear or see the attorneys. In about 25% of the cases, oral arguments will be scheduled before the Court. However, oral arguments are usually only held if there are novel issues or the justices feel they need more information about a particular issue.
There are nine justices on the Illinois Appellate Court in Elgin. Justices work on cases in 3 judge panels. One justice will be the “Writer” and author the opinion. The other justices may write their own opinions (dissent or concurrence). The justices thoroughly know the laws and facts of each case they are working on, and expect the appellate attorneys of each case to be as well-informed.
Justice Schostok started a charitable foundation very near and dear to her;” Michael Matters” which was created and named in memory of her late husband. Michael Schostok was diagnosed in 2011 with a glioblastoma and passed away 15 months after his diagnosis. Though suffering a great deal during his illness, Michael was very gracious and was always thinking of others who were in a worst position than himself. After his death, the Schostok family wanted to find a way to help others and honor Michael’s memory. They started a foundation to raise money and give grants to patients and their family in need of financial assistance as a result of their illness. The foundation distributes $1,500.00 grants to patients in need. Schostok’s daughter Marissa, is the chairperson of the foundation.
Justice Schostok is also involved with another charitable work that involves her love of reading. As president of the Illinois Judges Association, Schostok spearheaded the project, “Page It Forward” which encourages children to read. The project includes raising funds for books and scheduling judges to visit classrooms and read to school children.
Justice Schostok has had an illustrious career as a prosecutor, judge and justice. Additionally, she has been involved in a number of charitable causes. However, she says the role she is most proud of is being mother to three children. Her influence upon them is evident as one daughter is a lawyer and one son is currently attending law school.
Robert Monahan, Esq. is a lawyer in Gurnee, IL with his own practice in personal injury. He has a radio show on Thursday nights at 7 pm, called “Everyday Law,” on WRLR 98.3 FM, where he tries to demystify the law for the ordinary person. “Everyday Law” can be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes or other various podcatchers. His two websites are www.monahanfirm.com and www.gurneepersonalinjuryattorney.com. He also has two Facebook pages – “Robert A. Monahan, Esq.” and “Everyday Law.”