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Judge Christine Cody Profile

By Anthony Abear

(From the March, 2018 Issue)

The 18th Judicial Circuit Court recently appointed Christine T. Cody as an associate judge in DuPage County. With this judicial appointment the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Bruce R. Kelsey was filled.

Christine Cody received her law degree from the Loyola University School of Law. She was most recently a partner with the Law Offices of Rohde & Cody in Addison since 2011. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the College of DuPage, an assistant state’s attorney for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, and an associate at DiMonte, Schostack & Lizak. She was admitted to the practice of law in Illinois in 1995.

I had the opportunity to meet with Judge Cody recently.

Q: Judge, how are you this afternoon?
Cody: I am fine, thank you, and thank you for having me.

Q: This is an interview about you to introduce you to the general public and to have some insight into who you are. I am sure that many people out there already know you, but some people, especially when you become a judge, they want to know about the new judges, right?
Cody: Sure. 

Q: You were appointed when?
Cody: I was appointed on August 31 of 2017 and I began work on September 18th. 

Q: And where are you assigned?
Cody: I am assigned to the Wheaton Field Court.

Q: What type of cases are you presently hearing?
Cody: Traffic court cases are made up of vehicle code violations and ordinance violations.

Q: How do you feel about it so far?
Cody: I love it.

Q: Tell me about your background starting with your hometown.
Cody: I grew up in Hickory Hills, a very small southwest suburb. I went to St. Patricia Grade School there, then to Queen of Peace High School in nearby 
Burbank, Illinois. Queen of Peace was the sister school of St. Lawrence. 
Unfortunately, it recently closed.

Q: And what about college and law school?
Cody: I did my undergraduate studies at Purdue University. I may be the only English Literature major you will ever meet from Purdue. And I attended 
law school at Loyola University in 
Chicago.

Q: When did you graduate law school?
Cody: I graduated from law school in January of 1995. 

Q: After you graduated law school, what did you do next?
Cody: I interviewed with the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office. However, the first job offer I received was from DiMonte, Schostack & Lizak, a commercial litigation firm that was up in Park Ridge. I was there for all of two weeks when the State’s Attorney’s Office offered me a position as an ASA in the Criminal Division, which is what I’d always wanted. So after having worked there for two weeks, I gave my two weeks’ notice. A whole month in commercial 
litigation; thereafter prosecution and then criminal defense work.

Q: So you’re an expert in commercial litigation.
Cody: (Laughs) Exactly.

Q: Where were you assigned at the DuPage State’s Attorney’s Office?
Cody: After traffic court, I was assigned to various misdemeanor courtrooms, starting with domestic violence; then juvenile delinquency; and then felony. It was a tremendous opportunity – I got to try hundreds of bench trials and about three dozen juries as a prosecutor.

Q: Then? 
Cody: I left the State’s Attorney’s Office to go into private practice with Chuck Rohde and Laura Mitacek. We were contemporaries at the State’s Attorney’s Office and decided to go into business together. We did predominantly criminal defense work.

Q: I assume you folks are all still friends?
Cody: We’re all very good friends. And Chuck and I continued together in private practice up until I was appointed last summer.

Q: Do you have any memories of cases in particular that remain with you?
Cody: I think the case that remains with me the most is an aggravated battery case that Chuck and I tried together. It may have been our first jury as criminal defense attorneys. It was a week-long trial in Bridgeview that resulted in an acquittal.

Q: Why does that stand out for you?
Cody: Because there were a lot of racial elements to that trial and I think that the prosecutors were as emotionally invested in their witnesses, who were police officers, as we were in the defendant and his family. It did result in an acquittal. The jury was moved by the facts and each one of them spoke to us at the conclusion of the trial. The wins are the ones that we remember, right? 
Q: Why is it you think you were drawn to law?
Cody: I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor because of my dad, Harry Heckert. He was a special agent with the U.S. Treasury Department, Narcotics and Organized Crime, and in later years the Department of Defense. Unfortunately, he passed away three years ago. He would have been happy to see me on the bench. 

Q: Anybody else that has helped you in giving you guidance in your professional direction?
Cody: Yes, many people. Judge Liam Brennan, who has been a lifelong friend and who supported and encouraged me through the judicial application process. I always considered Carmen Polo, who was the Deputy Chief of the Misdemeanor Division at the SAO in the late 90s, to be a mentor. And Justice Ann Jorgensen - I was assigned to her felony courtroom as a young prosecutor. She was a very big proponent of rehabilitation and drug treatment, so that made an impression at a time when not everyone valued that as an objective of the criminal justice system. And I have to give credit to my mom, Ginny Heckert. She has always made and continues to make everything work for me. She’s taking my daughter to dance for me right now so that I could be at this interview. I could have never enjoyed the career that I have had without her help with my children. 

Q: Do you have any thoughts about your current assignment?
Cody: I think that traffic court is the one courtroom where most law-abiding citizens have a reasonable chance of finding themselves one day. It might be their one brush with the judicial system, so I feel very strongly that people should walk away with a positive impression of our judicial system. That’s why I try to treat everyone with respect. It is really my goal that people feel like they have been treated fairly.

Q: Do you want to share with us any of your interests, passions, or hobbies?
Cody: This is the question I was afraid of because for the past 24 years my interests and hobbies have been centered on my kids and having a law practice. I love horseback riding, but I don’t ever get a chance to do it anymore. I love to read and belonged to a fantastic book club. I taught Criminal Law and Procedure in the Paralegal Studies Program at the College of DuPage and volunteered at my children’s schools. Many years ago I tutored elementary school students in Cabrini Green. 

Q: And you are married.
Cody: I am married. My husband is Judge Jim Orel. We have six children between us. 

Q: Now that you’re a judge, do you miss anything?
Cody: My partnership with Chuck Rohde! Chuck and I have been through it all together. We have tried cases together for more than two decades, starting as misdemeanor prosecutors. We had a very nice practice, and a lot of fun. So I’d have to say I do miss that.