CBA Record May-June 2021
Y O U N G L A W Y E R S J O U R N A L
she pivoted by serving Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community. For several decades, Quinn shied away from identifying as an outlaw. But after she transitioned, she flipped the script and embraced the label. As a member of a marginalized community, Quinn gained perspective and empathy. She also wanted to use her position in the legal community to change others’ minds and show why discrimination was wrong. This was one impetus behind Quinn’s motivation to become a judge. While she knew she was intelligent and capable, she initially doubted whether the electorate would accept her gender identity. However, this changed after Judge Phyllis Frye and Judge Vicky Kowalski encouraged her to run. Their support was significant because they were the first two openly transgender judges in America. Frye, in particular, transitioned in the 1970s and faced public humiliation, threats, and the constant pres- ence of crosses on her lawn. Such votes of confidence gave Quinn the conviction to put herself in the public eye. AWinning Campaign In her campaigns, Quinn considered her gender identity as an advantage. It allowed her to not only incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into her platform, but also serve as a living testament of those principles. However, despite receiving the approval of several bar associations and her 37 years of experience, she did not win the first time she ran for judge in 2018. From that experience, Quinn learned the unwritten rules and the path to follow to win. For example, she needed to obtain the support of local committee members and contribute to others’ campaigns. More importantly, she learned the importance of being herself. When a Republican guber- natorial candidate aired a hateful campaign ad targeting marginalized communities, Quinn responded by posting a video on social media that called politicians to unite instead of divide. The reception to this video was overwhelmingly positive and inspired others to work on her campaign. When Quinn ran for judge again in 2020, several people offered guidance, support, and mentorship. Learning from her mistakes, Quinn visited every ward and
township in Cook County and met as many people as possible. As an introvert, this was difficult at first. But Quinn’s campaign manager and wife asked her to start small by meeting five people at an event before leaving. With a Diet Coke in her hands, Judge Quinn quickly exceeded this goal, and soon met more than 10 people at each event. Her hard work paid off in the March 2020 primaries. At 8 PM on election night, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune called and asked if she was ready to call the race because she had 60% of the vote, winning all 30 townships and all 50 wards in Cook County. Quinn credited her victory to the people of Cook County, saying they were the reason why she stayed in Chicago. She also credited the hardworking and accepting people who lived here for always inspiring her to act with integrity. Although Quinn has a heavy docket as a traffic court judge, she pays attention to each litigant’s case and finds the best pos- sible outcome because the criminal justice system, especially the traffic system, is sup- posed to make things right for all parties. Indiscriminately issuing large fines before taking into account the cost of medical treatment, social services, and legal fees could cause her litigants to face financial ruin. Quinn rules with grace and flex- ibility and has offered community service and long-term payment plans to pay fines. Quinn also makes it a point to tell litigants her pronouns, and invites them to do the same, to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible in the courtroom.
When she is not on the bench, Quinn is a board member of LAGBAC: Chicago’s LGBTQ+ Bar Association (LAGBAC). She has stayed involved with LAGBAC over the years because it allows her to give back and create a comfortable environment for trans- gender attorneys. Knowing the importance of representation, Quinn puts herself in the public’s eye as much as possible to make it easier for future generations. Now, discrimination based on gender identity is illegal. But Quinn still proudly considers herself an outlaw. This identifica- tion allowed her to empathize with others, turn supposed weaknesses into strengths, and learn how to achieve her dreams. No longer defined by dualities or dichotomies, Quinn now helps others and creates change through the most radical act possible: being herself.
Kenneth Matuszewski focuses his practice at Braun IP Law, LLC on patent prosecution and transactional intel- lectual property matters and serves as YLS Public Service Manager.
CBA RECORD 37
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