Tom Morrissey | ©Charles Cherney Photography

Thomas A. Morrissey, who was elected Riverside Township trustee in April as part of an unopposed slate of candidates will soon be leaving that post after he was appointed one of 22 new Cook County Circuit Court associate judges on Sept. 9.

 Morrissey and the other new associate judges were chosen by a vote of the 249 elected Cook County Circuit Court judges from a field of 44 finalists who themselves were chosen from a field of 225 applicants. 

Some judges in Cook County are elected while others, such as Morrissey, are appointed. Appointed associate judges have the same powers and hear the same kind of cases as elected judges, but they are paid just a little bit less.

Morrissey and the other new appointed judges will be paid an annual salary of $205,482, while elected judges are paid $216,297 a year. He’ll assume his new role as judge next month.

In April, Morrissey was elected a Riverside Township trustee as part of the Riverside Unity Party slate. He is now in the process of resigning that position. The remaining members of the township board will pick a replacement.

Morrissey has lived in Riverside for about 25 years. He has operated a solo law practice in LaGrange since 2002 and primarily does plaintiff’s personal injury cases. Morrissey, 62, grew up in south Oak Park as one of seven children. His younger brother, Rick, is a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a resident of Brookfield.

Thomas Morrissey, who began his legal career as an attorney in the Illinois Attorney General’s office, said that he began seriously thinking about trying to become a judge approximately five years ago.

“It’s something I’ve always aspired to,” Morrissey told the Landmark. “I really like the public service aspect of being a lawyer.”

In 2019, Morrissey created a political committee, Friends of Thomas A. Morrissey, and he tentatively planned on running for judge in next year’s elections. 

“I probably thought I was going to do it this year if I didn’t get this,” Morrissey said. “Since I’ve gotten this, I will not be running.”

Morrissey has ties to state Sen. Steve Landek, (D-Bridgeview) who also serves as the mayor of Bridgeview and is the Lyons Township Democratic Committeeman. On Jan. 5, 2021 Friends of Thomas A. Morrissey donated $600 to the Lyons Township Democratic Party in return for a spot in the Lyons Democratic Organization’s ad book. In 2019 Friends of Thomas A. Morrissey contributed $200 to Citizens for Steve Landek.

“I’m a loyal member of the Democratic Party,” said Morrissey when asked about his relationship to Landek. “I do some pro bono work with the Lyons Township Democrats and have for years.”

There’s some belief Landek helped get Morrissey on the Riverside Township Board as a way to boost Morrissey’s expected run for judge. Traditionally, Republicans have run unopposed for Riverside Township offices, but this year a new bipartisan “unity party” slate ran unopposed. Morrissey was the only Democrat and non-incumbent on the slate.

Morrissey, the sixth of seven children, was just 3 years old when his father died. He began caddying at the Riverside Golf Club when he was 13 years old. Much of his earnings went to pay for tuition at Fenwick High School. 

He caddied at the Riverside Golf Club for about a decade, rising to the position of caddy master. He was awarded Chick Evans Scholarship and graduated magna cum laude from Marquette University in 1981 with a degree in history. Morrissey graduated from DePaul University Law School in 1985. 

After four years with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, Morrissey went into private practice did medical malpractice, product liability and general negligence defense work for two law firms, Peterson & Ross and Gardner Carton & Douglass. 

In 1998 Morrissey switched to plaintiff’s work at the law firm of Arnold and Kadjan, a firm that specializes in representing unions and workers. Morrissey opened his own solo law firm in 2002.

Morrissey served for four years as the head of the St. Mary’s Parents Sports Club and helped bring soccer and track and field to the Riverside parish. He also coached basketball at St. Mary’s.

As part of the selection process for appointed judges, Morrissey and the other 43 finalists created a short video and did interviews with the circuit court judges. The initial 225 applicants were winnowed to the 44 finalists by an 11-judge nominating committee led by Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans. All the applicants were evaluated by a number of bar associations.

Morrissey is pleased to be selected and be spared the cost and uncertainty of running for judge.

“I just pursued it,” Morrissey said of becoming a judge. “There’s a lot of different ways to try to do this. I never thought I’d get it via this route.”