First female Indian American judge, Rena Marie Van Tine, runs for Cook County Circuit Court

first indian american judge


First female Indian American judge (Cook County, Illinois) — Rena Marie Van Tine, who became the first female Indian American judge in the nation to serve on a state court in 2001, is running for Circuit Court Judge in 2022.

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What sets Van Tine apart from other candidates in the race is the fact that “the depth and breadth of my experience is unusual,” she said.

“It is unusual that a judge that’s been serving in the system for 20 years would be running for judge,” she said. “No one will have to guess at the kind of judge I’ll be because I’ve been serving and doing the job for 20 years. My life is an open book, the history of my decisions on the bench speaks for itself.”

“Even before becoming a judge, I had the perspective of a lawyer that was advocating for each side so I think that’s an important part of it as well,” she added.


Throughout her career, Van Tine has served in private practice settings and in government. She served as special counsel to the Illinois State Comptroller Daniel W. Haynes after serving 12 years as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney, according to Van Tine. She’s tried hundreds of cases, including arguing several cases in the appellate court. Also, she prosecuted violent offenders at the criminal division while defending medical malpractice cases against Cook County Hospital in the civil division.

She is currently assigned to the law division, law jury trial assignment at the Richard M. Daley Center, where she’s been since 2017. She was previously assigned to the child protection division of Juvenile Court in Chicago.

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One thing that factors into why she’s deciding to run in the race is her belief in the importance of having judges that look like the public.

“If everyone looked exactly the same on the bench, people would lose confidence in the system,” she explained.

“It’s a valuable experience running in Cook County because each section of the county is different,” she added. “It’s not a monolithic community, so it’s important to know the issues that are important to the various constituencies, so you don’t go up there and rule in a vacuum and you understand the perspectives of the people appearing before you. Even if they don’t agree with the ruling, I think it’s incumbent on judges to explain the ruling in a way people can understand.”

If elected, she said she’d like to help shape the court system, by voting on diverse associate judges.

Associations and Organizations

In her free time, she enjoys running and lifting weights. She also is and has been part of a slew of associations, organizations and committees. They include the following:

  • Board member of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association (current).
  • Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, August 2000.

  • Former Chair of WILPOWER, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois’ political action

  • Former Joint Treasurer of the Indo-American Democratic Organization and a board
    member of the Asian American Democratic Organization.

  • Founding member of the Chicago chapter of the Indian-American Bar Association
    (renamed the South Asian American Bar Association of Chicago in 2016) and served on
    its first board of directors.

  • Former Chair of State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine’s Asian American Advisory Council.

  • Member of the Southland Black Chamber of Commerce

First female Indian American judge

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