About Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs

Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs currently serves as a Justice on the Illinois Appellate Court. Prior to her appointment to the Appellate Court, Justice Cobbs was appointed as a Circuit Court Judge in September 2011, and won election to the seat in 2014. Early in her legal career, Justice Cobbs served as senior judicial law clerk to former Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, the Honorable Charles E. Freeman (deceased).

In January 2015, Justice Cobbs was sworn in as a justice on the Illinois Appellate Court by her judicial mentor, Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman.  As one of 24 appellate court justices in Cook County, she hears appeals in all case types, including criminal, civil, juvenile, domestic relations and administrative law.  In 2018 she served as the Presiding Justice over her division.  She has also represented her division on the court’s Mediation Committee and currently sits on the  Executive Committee, on which she has served two previous terms.

During her tenure as a Cook County circuit court judge, Justice Cobbs presided over minor traffic cases, misdemeanors and DUI’s, evictions, contracts, subrogation, enforcement of judgments, the pro se (self-represented litigants) call and over civil jury cases in the First Municipal District.

Prior to becoming a judge, she served first as a staff attorney and then as chief legal counsel in the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, the administrative arm of the Illinois Supreme Court. In 2002, she was appointed by the Supreme Court as Director of the Illinois Courts, becoming the first African American and the first woman to serve in that capacity. As Director, she advised the high court on every aspect of administering Illinois’ court system, including budgeting, continuing education for judges, the delivery of probation services, rules of practice for attorneys and the impact of legislation on the judiciary.

Justice Cobbs has been active in the court system throughout her legal career. She has served
on several Supreme Court committees and commissions, including the Supreme Court Rules
Committee, Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions (Civil), Committee on Judicial Performance
and Evaluation and as an ex-officio member of the Court’s Judicial Conference, Legislative
Committee, and the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, for which she drafted
the enabling legislation.

She annually volunteers as a judge of the Appellate Lawyers Association moot court competition; as a Law Day Presenter at local high schools and is frequently called upon by the Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism to administer of Oath of Professionalism to first year law students.   Justice Cobbs has been a co-presenter on “Procedures in the Appellate Court” and “Preserving the Record on Appeal” and in 2022, served as a panelist at the Illinois Appellate Court Conference on “Trending Issues in Civil Cases,” and as a host judge for LAGBAC’s 2023 Meet the Bench Series.  

Justice Cobbs currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Judges Association, a statewide organization addressing the needs of Illinois judges, as well as the Board of Directors for South Suburban PADS, a not-for-profit organization which delivers shelter, housing and rehabilitative services to South Suburban Cook County’s homeless population.  Previously, Justice Cobbs served as a member on the Board of Trustees of the Supreme Court’s Judicial College, the governing body which oversees educational training and professional development for all state court judges and justice partners in Illinois; as Chairperson of the Illinois Judicial Council, an organization comprised largely of African American judges; and as a member on the Board of Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth, a not for profit organization which provides mentoring services to underprivileged youth in the Chicagoland area; the Center for Conflict Resolution, a not for profit organization providing alternatives to legal dispute resolution; the Council for Higher Education in Haiti; the Conference of State Court Administrators; and, as Chairperson of the Executive Board, New Faith Baptist Church.

She has been honored to receive the following commendations and awards: The Southland Black Chamber Award for Judicial Excellence • Illinois Judges Association Civitatis Award  • Cook County Bar Association Trailblazer Award • Illinois Supreme Court Judicial College Commendation • Court Cook County State’s Attorney’s C.F. Stradford Award • Omega Psi Phi  Justice Award • Chicago-Kent Ida Platt Award • National Bar Association’s Heman Sweatt Award • Cook County Bar Association Kenneth E. Wilson Award • Sweet Holy Spirit Justice of the Year Award • Top Ladies of Distinction Crown Jewel Award • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Crescent Moon Award • Illinois Judicial Council Chairperson’s Award (2012, 2014 & 2020) • The Chicago Bar Association’s Earl Burris Dickerson Award • Cook County Bar Association Judicial Award • Chicago-Kent College of Law Alumni Association Recognition Award •nChicago-Kent College of Law Bar and Gavel Society Inductee • The Standish Willis Award. 

Justice Cobbs received her B.A. degree from Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland and she holds a master’s degree in clinical social work (MSW) from the University of Maryland. A graduate of  IIT-Chicago-Kent College of Law, Justice Cobbs was admitted to the Illinois and Federal bars in 1988.