Justice Lisa Holder White became the first Black woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court this July
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois has a new Supreme Court Justice who was sworn in Thursday morning. Joy Cunningham became the second Black woman to serve on the state's highest court.
She takes the spot vacated by Justice Anne Burke, who retired Wednesday. Cunningham previously served as a First District Appellate Justice.
"It's going to be difficult to follow in Anne Burke's footsteps because she is just an extraordinary public servant, but I'm up to the task and I'm really excited," Cunningham said.
After her swearing in ceremony, Cunningham compared herself to a turtle sitting on a light pole, saying that like that turtle, she didn't get here alone.
"There were high expectations for my siblings for me, and boosting each other was just the way of life in my family," Cunningham said. "We were told there was nothing we couldn't do if we worked hard enough."
Justice Lisa Holder White became the first Black woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court when she was sworn in this past July.
Soon Mary Kay O'Brien and Elizabeth Rochford will join the court, giving women a 5-2 majority for the first time in Illinois history.
"To see the face of the court changing and evolving, I'm ready to get to work," said Rochford.
While Cunningham said women can bring a different perspective to problem solving, the new justice said maintaining judicial independence is the most important principle for all justices
"To me it's the bedrock of democracy because you have to make decisions based on the rule of law, what is fair and not what is popular or because you are worried about your political future," she said.
Cunningham brings with her a variety of experience to the bench. She served on the First District Appellate Court since 2006, and was also general counsel to Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. She was the first black woman to be elected president of the Chicago Bar Association.
"As I join the highest court in our state, you can count on me to be fair, even handed and upholding the rule of law and service to people of Illinois," said Cunningham.
Cunningham's term ends in two years. Rochford and O'Brien will be sworn in Monday.