(From the February 2012 Issue)
On December 6, 2011, the Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit appointed Alex McGimpsey as associate judge to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge George Sotos. The road to the bench for McGimpsey began in New York City, where he spent the first three years of his life living with his family in the Burrough of Queens. He then moved with his family to suburban New Jersey before they moved to rural New Jersey, where he lived for thirteen years. McGimpsey notes, "I have had the rare opportunity to experience life in a large American city, a suburban area, and a rural community, which gave me the chance to see all walks of life."
This would not be the only time that McGimpsey had the chance to experience differences. In 1981, McGimpsey left for Durham, North Carolina to begin his studies at Duke University. He was a history and economics student while at Duke. At Duke, he experienced the culture of the South, while attending school at one of the largest institutions in the country. At Duke, McGimpsey played collegiate baseball, where he was the team’s short stop. When asked what he gained from his education at Duke, he chuckled, "I felt a real connection with the students there and learned a great deal." He added, "I also met my wife at Duke." He remains married to that wife to this day, a woman who hailed from Chicago, Illinois and had family connections in St. Louis Missouri.
It was those connections that led McGimpsey to the Midwest, where upon graduating from Duke University in 1985, he enrolled at Washington University School of Law in 1986. However, it was more than St. Louis that inspired his plan to go to law school. McGimpsey’s father was a lawyer, specifically a civil litigator, which according to McGimpsey, "my father was a strong influence on my life." Additionally, it was a law-related course at Duke in his senior year that added fuel to that fire to become a lawyer. With respect to his law school education, McGimpsey states, "I loved criminal procedure and constitutional law. I had great professors who made me love those subjects even more."
While in law school, he was a summer associate at a large Chicago firm, Winston & Strawn (now known as Winston & Strawn LLP). So, upon graduation in 1989, McGimpsey went to work for Winston & Strawn as an associate, focusing his practice in the area of commercial litigation. While he valued his time at Winston & Strawn, his desire for something different grew. He notes, "I wanted more courtroom experience. Plus, I also had law and order mentality, based upon my background and upbringing." When asked where that mentality began, McGimpsey commented that his father was also a United States Marine. As such, in 1992, left the large firm in Chicago and interviewed with then State’s Attorney James Ryan for an Assistant State’s Attorney position in DuPage County.
For the first eleven years at the State’s Attorney’s Office, McGimpsey worked his way from traffic to misdemeanor to 3rd chair felony to special prosecutions in financial crimes to 1st chair felony. In 2003, he became a Supervisor, overseeing domestic violence and child abuse and neglect cases. In July 2007, he became Deputy Chief of Child Protection/Domestic Violence/Juvenile prosecutions. As Deputy Chief, he oversaw cases of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, and criminal sexual assault and abuse. While these cases are very difficult cases involving heart-wrenching issues, McGimpsey notes, "As a prosecutor, I was always more low-key and deliberate. I avoided theatrics and gimmicks." He went on further, "I found collegiality to be important to the system. How you treat your adversary, including the defendant himself or herself, is everything."
With these values in mind, McGimpsey sought his appointment to the bench. He comments, "I love trial work and the courtroom atmosphere. It was natural for me to aspire to the bench to further my experience and work in the courtroom." He also adds, "I believe in the criminal justice system, and the legal system as a whole, so I wanted to remain a part of that system." He brings to the bench, as mentioned previously, a series of varied experiences. He is a man who has lived in the big city and rural town; a man who has lived in the East Coast, the South, and the Midwest; and a man who has served an attorney in civil and criminal law. With these seeming contrasts, McGimpsey states, "The challenge to being a good judge, for me, is finding balance and seeking the fair administration of justice."
When asked what traits he has learned from any particular judge, he diplomatically noted that all judges have brought some trait to the table that he has learned from over the years. He noted two important traits of the DuPage Judiciary that he especially valued. He states, "I value the professionalism and collegiality that our judges exhibit." He then adds, "I value the thoughtfulness of the rulings from the judges, where arguments and issues are whittled down to the net truth. That is truly an art and a science." He found that the judges have always been willing to work with attorneys, sharing a tip or hint to improve their practice of law. It is these traits that McGimpsey hopes to embody during his judicial tenure.
But the varied experiences of his life are not limited to work. He has been married for 24 years. He has a daughter and son in high school and a son in middle school. To unwind, he plays basketball and baseball with his sons, and coaches them as well. His daughter is a tennis player, and he fondly laughs that he even plays some tennis with her. Yet being a family man and keeping fit are not his only facets. McGimpsey is an amateur musician who plays guitar, and he joins the ranks of some other musically-talented members of the judiciary, including, but not limited to the Honorable Ron Sutter, the Honorable Bonnie Wheaton, the Honorable John Kinsella, and his predecessor, the Honorable George Sotos (retired). When asked the level of his skill, McGimpsey chuckles, "I play around. Nothing special, just some basement recording sessions." Perhaps it is this subtle humility that will mark McGimpsey’s career on the bench for years to come.