Justice Rita B. Garman was born in Oswego, Illinois, and has called Danville her home since she began her legal career. She received her B.S. with highest honors in economics from the University of Illinois in 1965 and was named to the Bronze Tablet. She obtained her J.D. with distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1968. She began the practice of law in Danville with the Vermilion County Legal Aid Society. Later, she became an Assistant State’s Attorney and, in 1973, entered private practice in Danville.
In 1974, she was appointed Associate Circuit Judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit. After twelve years in this position, she was elected Circuit Judge, and from 1987 to 1995, she was the Presiding Judge for Vermilion County. She was assigned in 1995 and elected in 1996 to the Fourth District Appellate Court. She was the first woman to hold each of these positions.
Justice Garman was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2001 and elected in 2002. In 2012, she was retained for a second term. She served as Chief Justice from 2013 to 2016. She is presently the longest-serving female judge and longest-serving judge in Illinois.
Justice Garman has received numerous awards, including the Harold Sullivan Award for Judicial Excellence from the Illinois Judges Association in 2011 and the Spirit of Lincoln Award from the Abraham Lincoln Association in 2014. In 2017, the Champaign County Bar Association named her a Pillar of the Profession.