About Justice Mikva

Mary Mikva grew up in a household where social justice and contribution to the community were core values. Her father, Abner Mikva, was a beloved advocate for civil liberties and civil rights who served as a Congressman, a Federal Judge, as White House Counsel under President Clinton and as an advisor to President Obama. Her mother, Zorita (Zoe) Mikva, was a public school teacher in Evanston and in Washington D.C. Zoe spent countless volunteer hours working to promote improved public school education, fair housing and political engagement. Zoe spent the end of her career as a full-time volunteer for the Better Government Association.


Justice Mikva started her legal career as a law clerk for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and Judge Prentice Marshall. She worked as a criminal defense lawyer with Patrick A. Tuite, left to join the Harold Washington team in the Corporation Council’s office and then practiced as a plaintiffs’ employment attorney.

Justice Mikva was elected to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2004. She was assigned to the Child Protection Division for six years. In that assignment, she organized and taught classes for attorneys and other judges on parental rights and the Juvenile Court Act. She also became very involved with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington D.C.  She worked with the organization on addressing pregnancies among youth in foster care and worked with judges nationwide on developing best practices.   She worked with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to educate caseworkers on how to reduce teen pregnancy and developed a “bench card” for judges to use when teens appeared before them. 

In 2010, Justice Mikva was assigned to the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court. In this new position, she handled some of the most complicated and challenging cases to come before the circuit court, including cases on pension reform, pension underfunding, legislative remaps and large class actions. 

In 2016 the Illinois Supreme Court assigned her to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. In that role she has been Presiding Judge of the Second, First, and Sixth Divisions and served on the Executive Committee and the Settlement Committee. She has presented at numerous appellate court conferences, helped to craft the supreme court rules for appeals under new criminal justice reform statutes and initiated a committee to develop training and fair compensation for lawyers representing parents in child protection cases.

Throughout her judicial career she has been active in judicial education. Justice Mikva has taught classes to other judges in Procedural Fairness and Judicial Decision Making, Evidentiary Issues, Objections, Hearsay and Impeachment, Courtroom Management, and Literature and the Law. Justice Mikva mentored a cohort of new judges who were sworn in during the pandemic.  She also helped develop a program for judges to take into local high schools.

Justice Mikva has been active in the Illinois Judges Association.  She has served on the Board of Directors and been active on the Pro Bono, Selection and Retention, and In-Schools Committees. She has judged numerous moot court and trial competitions for Chicago’s law schools and for the ABA and for the ISBA High School Mock Trial Competition.

Justice Mikva remains involved with the Mikva Challenge, an organization that was started in honor of her parents and whose mission is to develop youth to be empowered informed and active citizens.

Her children are now grown and pursuing their own careers. Her daughter is a therapist and her son is a television executive. Her husband was a lawyer but now produces and promotes social action campaigns around documentary films. The organization he founded, CMP, brings Doc-10, an annual documentary film festival to Chicago. They live with their dog Max in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.