CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today appointed Judge Abner J. Mikva as Chairman of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC). Judge Mikva, who is a Senior Director and Visiting Professor at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago and a former White House Counsel, will replace J.B. Pritzker, who was appointed by the Governor to the post in 2003. Mikva’s appointment is effective immediately.
“Judge Mikva’s experience in government and in the national judicial system make him a perfect choice to serve as Chairman of the Human Rights Commission. As a pioneer of our state’s efforts to make sure people are treated fairly in the workplace, Judge Mikva’s talent, experience, commitment and leadership will build on the outstanding work J.B. Pritzker did and the Commission continues to do in protecting the civil rights of people across Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
“When I was a member of the Illinois State Legislature, I was one of the original sponsors, along with the late Paul Simon, of the Fair Employment Practices Commission. The basic principle of our idea was to protect people from discrimination on the job. Now, more than forty years after we laid the foundation for fairness, I’m honored and excited to accept the Governor’s invitation to serve on the Illinois Human Rights Commission,” said Judge Mikva.
“We are honored to have such a distinguished jurist as Judge Mikva as the new chairman of the Illinois Human Rights Commission. He brings a wealth of legal and legislative experience in the civil rights arena and will be a great resource for our commissioners and staff,” said J.B. Pritzker, outgoing IHRC chairman.
Pritzker, a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, is Chairman of Pritzker Group and a partner at New World Ventures, a venture capital firm.
Judge Mikva is Senior Director and Visiting Professor at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago. He was chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, White House counsel for President Bill Clinton and served in the Illinois House of Representatives for five consecutive terms. He served on both the Ways and Means Committee and the Judiciary Committee while in Congress. While in the Illinois legislature, he was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and helped enact a new criminal code for Illinois, as well as a new mental health code. Judge Mikva also engages in arbitration and mediation work with JAMS, a national dispute resolution firm, has taught law at the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, and writes frequently about judicial and political issues.
Judge Mikva received his law degree from the University of Chicago in 1951, graduating cum laude. He was editor-in-chief of the Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif, the national legal honor society. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was a law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton. After his clerkship, he returned to Illinois where he entered the practice of law, becoming a partner of the late Justice Arthur Goldberg. His practice included extensive litigation and appellate work, and he presented several constitutional cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition, Judge Mikva taught courses at Northwestern University Law School, Duke University Law, Georgetown Law, the University of Pennsylvania Law, American University Law, the University of Chicago Law and the University of Illinois Law. He is the co-author of a political science text, The American Congress: The First Branch, and co-authored law school textbooks on the legislative process. Judge Mikva is a recipient of numerous honorary degrees including the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award through the University of Illinois and the Alumni Medal of the University of Chicago. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a founding member and serves on the Advisory Board of the American Constitution Society, which now has student chapters on over 150 law school campuses and lawyer chapters in numerous cities.
Judge Mikva and his wife, Zoe, helped to found the Mikva Challenge, which inspires Chicago high school students to participate in elections and civic activities, develop leadership skills and delve into complicated issues of public policy that affect their lives. Judge Mikva has three daughters, a judge, a lawyer and a rabbi, and seven grandchildren.
About the IHRC
IHRC has undergone a turnaround during the three years of the Blagojevich administration. Under the direction of outgoing Chairman J.B. Pritzker, the commission’s standing in the legal community soared as the backlog of cases was eliminated and justice became swift. The IHRC is dedicated to promoting freedom from unlawful discrimination by providing a neutral forum for resolving discrimination complaints as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Act prohibits discrimination based on sex, age, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, arrest record, marital status, handicap, citizenship, national origin, ancestry, unfavorable military discharge, retaliation, and sexual harassment. The Commission adjudicates complaints of civil rights violations in housing, employment, public accommodations and financial credit.