When Kathy Karayannis first considered a career in law, women were still breaking into the profession. It was the late ‘80s, and men dominated the field much more than they do today.
“There certainly were not as many women as there are now,” Karayannis said.
However, women who decided to become lawyers inspired Karayannis to follow in their footsteps. One of Karayannis’ friends, Pam Jensen, was the first woman to become a judge in Kane County in 1987.
“It just seemed like a great opportunity for women,” she said. “I thought it would open more options.”
After 23 years as an assistant state’s attorney at the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, Karayannis was named an associate judge in the 16th Circuit this month. She was up against about 30 other recommended candidates.
Today, Karayannis said she’s looking forward to continuing her career in Kane County and joining the judges of the 16th Judicial District, who she’s always thought were fair and patient.
“I just hope I can add to that,” she said. “I’m excited to be a part of that group.”
As a Elgin native who now resides in St. Charles, Karayannis has had friends at the State’s Attorney’s Office throughout her life, long before she started her career there.
“I respected them,” she said. “They were state’s attorney’s making a difference.”
Her first day as judge is scheduled for Monday and her ceremonial swearing will take place Oct. 28.
Did you ever consider becoming a judge?
I think every prosecutor probably thinks about it. In the back of my mind, it was probably always there.
How did you react when you heard that you got the position?
My reaction was ‘Wow.’ I was really excited and frankly nervous. It’s an awesome responsibility. You know you need to do a good job.
What’s important about being a good judge?
When people are at the point when they’re in court, there’s a lot going on in their life. Sometimes it’s the most worrisome time of their lives... You have to make sure your giving it your best.
What are some qualities of a good judge?
From my observation from being an attorney and constantly in the courtroom, good judges have good temperaments. They’re patient. They give people the opportunity to exercise their rights in front of the court... they’re fair, honest, hard-working people. They want to get the right thing done.
What do you like about Kane County?
I was born and raised in Kane County. It’s home to me.
What advice would you give those trying to get into the law?
I think it’s a great job. They should do it. If you decide to have a family, you can have a legal career, too. It’s a very fulfilling job.