Judge Rita Novak has been as an associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County since 1999. Following assignments in child protection, domestic violence, traffic court, and Law Division, Tax and Miscellaneous Remedies Section, she now serves as a Chancery Division Judge.
Most of Judge Novak’s pre-judicial career was spent in public service. She was chief of the civil appeals division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, an assistant professor of law at Indiana University at Indianapolis, and an assistant project director at the American Bar Association. She had almost no trial experience in any area of law as her practice was primarily appellate. Her practice focused on constitutional, regulatory, and employment law. She litigated cases in both federal and state courts of review. At the American Bar Association, she worked with state appellate courts throughout the county to assist them in reducing delay and co-authored a book, “Delay on Appeal: A Process for Identifying Causes and Cures.” Judge Novak is a graduate of DePaul College of Law and received an LL.M. from Columbia University School of Law.
Before starting on a career in the law, Judge Novak entered the Peace Corps, where she worked with groups of rural women in Colombia, South America. She maintains an abiding interest in Hispanic language and culture, as evidence by serving as a member of the leadership council of the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center and as a tutor in an after-school program at Casa Central, in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. An active participant in professional associations, Judge Novak coordinated a mentor program for the IJA, which paired judges with high school students from disadvantaged areas to enrich their learning experiences. She has held positions on the Illinois State Bar Association special committee on ethics, the access to justice advisory board, and section councils. She served on the boards of directors and other committees of the Women’s Bar Association and the Appellate Lawyers’ Association. The Supreme Court appointed her to the executive committee of the Illinois Judicial Conference and to the Character and Fitness Committee. Judge Novak is a frequent faculty member for continuing judicial and legal education programs. She has also been an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University School of Law and IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.
A life-long city dweller, Judge Novak lives in Chicago’s South Loop. She enjoys attending cultural events, foreign travel, and studying Spanish and Italian.