- In 2001, she became the first Indian-origin female judge in the nation to serve on a state court.
Indian American Rena Marie Van Tine has announced her run for Cook County Circuit Court Judge in Illinois next year. In 2001, Van Tine became the first female Indian American judge in the nation to serve on a state court. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court elevated her to a circuit court position.
A lawyer for 35 years and a judge for 20, Van Tine has served the public as an assistant state’s attorney for 12 years. She was a special counsel to Illinois State Comptroller Daniel W. Hynes for two years.
The Southland Journal calls her “an experienced jurist who has presided over 60 jury trials during her three years in the law division, and presided over hundreds of bench trials during her 17 years in the Child Protection Division of Juvenile Court.”
Van Tine told the paper that what sets her apart from other candidates in the race is the fact that “the depth and breadth of my experience is unusual,” she said. “It is unusual that a judge that’s been serving in the system for 20 years would be running for judge,” she said. “No one will have to guess at the kind of judge I’ll be because I’ve been serving and doing the job for 20 years”
In an interview with the paper, posted on YouTube, Van Tine said that as a circuit judge, she wants to give back to the community, help shape the court system, and vote on other judges to bring them into the system as associate judges. “I think it’s great that the courts start to look like the people we serve,” she said. “I think it’s important to have a really diverse judiciary, [it] makes the judiciary stronger when we have perspectives from all different people in it. So I really want to see all that happen and am excited to be part of it.” If elected, she will become the first Indian American judge to be elected county-wide.
She is currently assigned to the law division, law jury trial assignment at the Richard M. Daley Center, where she’s been since 2017. She was previously assigned to the child protection division of Juvenile Court in Chicago. “It’s a valuable experience running in Cook County because each section of the county is different,” she says on her website. “It’s not a monolithic community, so it’s important to know the issues that are important to the various constituencies, so you don’t go up there and rule in a vacuum and you understand the perspectives of the people appearing before you.”
Born in Bangalore, Van Tine moved to the U.S. with her family. Her father was a physician and her mother was the dean of library services at Oakland University.
Before becoming a judge, Van Tine was the chair of State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine’s Asian American Advisory Council. She was also joint treasurer of the Indo-American Democratic Organization and a board member of the Asian American Democratic Organization. She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention held in August 2000.
She has taught trial advocacy at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Van Tine earned her law degree at New York Law School and her undergraduate degree from Oakland University. She has completed several graduate courses at Michigan State University focusing on intercultural communication.
She is a past president of the Asian American Bar Association of Illinois and a co-founding executive committee member for the Alliance of Bar Associations. Van Tine has served on the board of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and received its Mary Heftel Hooten Award during its March 5, 2021, judicial reception.
She is married to Mathew Van Tine, an attorney who specializes in commercial and antitrust litigation.