Please join us as we have a special guest on Everyday Law — Justice Larry Inglis — who began his law practice in 1960 and has practiced longer than I have been alive. We begin by discussing the background and career of Justice Inglis, from his time in private practice to his career on the circuit court and then his career as an appellate justice. Then, we move on to the changes in the legal community since 1960. We end with the mentoring that Justice Inglis has done over the years, including being a great friend and mentor to me.
Justice Larry Inglis (ret.) has had a long and illustrious legal career. He started working as a private practice lawyer in Lake County, later served as a Lake County Circuit judge and subsequently was appointed and later ran for Illinois Appellate Justice of the Second District Appellate Court. He continues to influence and participate in the legal community of Lake County after practicing law for over 50 years.
Lake County Roots of Justice Larry Inglis
Justice Inglis, a Lake County native, always wanted to be a lawyer and pursued his goal despite being told by his high school guidance counselor that he was unfit to be a lawyer and was better suited to an engineering career. Inglis attended the University of Illinois as an undergraduate and law student. He was able to work his way through school working as a milkman in Lake County during the summers. Justice Inglis didn’t deliver milk from an ordinary delivery truck but delivered milk from a horse-drawn wagon throughout Lake County.
Justice Inglis started practicing law in 1960. After a brief stint in southern Illinois, he returned to his hometown of Zion and opened his practice with a concentration in municipal law with the City of Zion as one of his clients. Through his years in private practice, Justice Inglis represented other municipal entities but also maintained a general practice. He was asked to apply for the position of Associate Judge which he initially declined. However, he subsequently was asked to run for Circuit Judge and decided to pursue that position.
Judge and Justice
There are three (3) levels of courts in Illinois. The Circuit Courts or trial courts, are presided over by Associate Court judges, who are appointed and elected by the Circuit Court judges, and Circuit Court judges, who are elected by the voters. The next tier of courts in Illinois are the Appellate Courts; of which there are five (5) appellate districts in Illinois. The highest court in Illinois is the Illinois Supreme Court.
Justice Inglis was elected to the Circuit Court in 1980. As a Circuit Court judge, he found the toughest cases to be those involving children. He also found it important to be patient with new lawyers in his courtroom and allow them to figure out the best way to do their job. Justice Inglis enjoyed the settlement process and realized that to reach an impartial decision, it is impossible to make everyone happy.
Justice Inglis was first appointed to the Second District Appellate Court for two (2) years and then ran and was elected to a full ten (10) year term as a justice. The position of an appellate justice is different from that of a circuit judge as an appellate justice works in collaboration as part of a three (3) judge panel whereas a circuit judge is the sole arbiter in his or her courtroom. Additionally, there are no juries or witnesses on the appellate level; in essence the Appellate Court is giving a report card to the circuit or trial court judges as to how a trial was conducted.
Changes in the Law/Bar of Lake County
As a lawyer with over fifty (50) years of experience, Justice Inglis has seen many changes in the law. One change in the 1960s was an end to police magistrates or justices of the peace. These positions were not held by lawyers, were not courts of record and adjudicated less serious matters such as juvenile delinquency. Associate Circuit Court judges were created to take the place of the justice of the peace and police magistrates at that time.
Justice Inglis was instrumental in the growth of the Lake County Bar Association into the professional organization that is today. In the 1960s, the Bar Association was a very informal group with no staff. In 1977, Justice Inglis was president of the Bar Association, and he and his vice-president, Don Morrison, decided that they wanted to improve and professionalize the group. They made changes by raising the dues paid by lawyers and hiring staff to run the group in its own facility. Today, the Lake County Bar Association has a staff, publications, numerous committees and events as well as providing continuing education credits.
Justice Inglis has also seen the rise in the number of female lawyers in Lake County. Up to 1977, there had been no female Bar Association presidents. Justice Inglis nominated Eva Schwartzman to vice-president of the Bar Association that year and she later was elected the Bar president. Additionally, Lake County had no female judges until 1980.
Another law-related group that Justice Inglis was instrumental in initiating is the Jefferson Inn. This group is modeled after the Inns of Court, traditionally a group for both judges and lawyers and designed to bridge the separation between lawyers and judges. Justice Inglis started the Jefferson Inn in the late 1980s to address this issue and it serves as meeting place for both groups of the Bar in Lake County.
Justice Inglis has long believed in the value of both having and being a mentor. A mentor teaches and gives advice to a less experienced or younger person. Justice Inglis had a great mentor and friend in Fred Geiger, Sr., who offered advice about the law and its practice. As well as having a mentor, Justice Inglis has been a mentor to many including Robert Monahan. Being a mentor is a reward in itself and is a way to “pay it forward”.
Dispersing advice and wisdom is part of being a mentor. Over the years Justice Inglis has learned that you cannot satisfy every client but you can do your very best with every case you handle.