The Hon. Thomas More Donnelly has long been a friend of the Lumen Christi Institute, and has been deeply involved in Lumen Christi programming, including presenting for our 2020 "Great Texts in Legal History" seminar, and helping found and direct the growing Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network. On December 3rd, 2021, Judge Donnelly was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to full circuit judge of Cook County, and will be sworn in Wednesday, December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Congratulations, Judge Donnelly!

---Official press release---


The Hon. Thomas More Donnelly, a Cook County Circuit Court associate judge for nearly 19 years, was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to full circuit judge Friday (Dec. 3, 2021).  He will be sworn in on Wednesday (Dec. 8, 2021) by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis at the Supreme Court’s Chicago courtroom, 160 N. LaSalle St.

Due to COVID restrictions, in-person capacity is limited, anyone interested in attending can view the livestream by registering on Zoom here:

Currently serving in the Law Division at the Daley Center, Judge Donnelly has presided over hundreds of jury trials and conducted hundreds of bench trials.  Before becoming a judge, he clerked for then-Illinois Appellate Court Justice Mary Ann G. McMorrow and served as an assistant Cook County public defender for 13 years.

Judge Donnelly’s judicial career has been distinguished by his leadership in a series of state-wide judicial ethics and judicial education initiatives, as well as his innovative efforts to improve the efficiency and fairness of the courts and their accessibility to all members of the community.  He received the Harold Sullivan Award from the Illinois Judges Association in 2018, the Impact Award from the Center for Disability and Elder Law in 2019, and was named Catholic Lawyer of the Year by the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago in 2014.

Judge Donnelly is a leading educator of judges and lawyers.  From 2016-19, he chaired the Illinois Judicial College Board of Trustees, the educational arm of the Illinois Supreme Court responsible for the training of Illinois judges and those who assist judges in the court system, including probation officers, court clerks, guardians ad litem, trial court administrators and law clerks.  He serves on the faculty of the National Judicial College, teaching hundreds of state court and military judges around the country.  He has taught classes on legal ethics and civil and criminal law at Loyola Law School, his alma mater, since 1987.  He directed the Philip H. Corboy Trial Advocacy Fellowship at Loyola for 20 years, from 1995-2016.  He is a past recipient of the St. Robert Bellarmine Award for a distinguished young alumnus and is an honorary member of Loyola’s Circle of Advocates.

Among other noteworthy educational activities, Judge Donnelly has taught trial advocacy at the University of Chicago Law School in the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.  He has also lectured at Washington and Lee Law School, Marquette Law School and DePaul University College of Law.

Judge Donnelly is a recognized authority on judicial and lawyer ethics.  He has served on the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee for nearly 30 years.  He has chaired the legal ethics committees of both the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) and the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).  He coauthored an online annotation on Illinois Legal Ethics for Cornell Law School.  He served as the Reporter for the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility from 1996 to 2000.

Judge Donnelly is active in a variety of religious and civic organizations.  He serves on the Advisory Board of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage and has spoken at many Hank Center presentations.  He directed the Cultural Forum of the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago from 2016 to 2017.  He served as President of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago from 2015 to 2016 and has been a member of the Guild’s board since 1988.  He is also the current vice-chair of the National Center for the Laity and the past chair of the John Howard Association, an organization dedicated to monitoring correctional facilities, policies and practices, and advancing reforms needed to achieve a fair, humane and effective criminal justice system.

Judge Donnelly’s appointment runs through December 4, 2022, following the November 2022 general election.  He is a candidate for full circuit judge in the countywide Cook County Circuit Court elections with the primary to be held in June, 2022, and the general election in November, 2022. 

Judge Donnelly and his wife have four sons and live in Chicago.