About 100 people gathered Thursday morning for a dedication ceremony and the renaming of the McHenry County Courthouse, which now will be known as the Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center.
Sullivan, 78, a retired chief judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in McHenry County, began his career when he was appointed as an associate judge for the 19th Judicial Circuit serving Lake and McHenry counties in 1976. He was elected as a resident circuit judge for McHenry County in 1984, and elected chief judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit of McHenry County in 2006. Sullivan retired in 2018.
During his career, he presided over criminal, civil and family court cases.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said the county “won the judicial lottery” when Sullivan was appointed. He noted some of Sullivan’s career highlights, including the creation of specialty courts that give second chances to people dealing with mental health, alcohol and drug problems.
Franks said because of Sullivan’s compassion, many people received a second chance.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman of the 4th District, who said she knew Sullivan all of his 46-year career, described him as “dedicated, smart and tenacious.”
She said he was “always a leader” who volunteered for many judicial assignments and acted as a mentor during his career.
“There is no one more deserving of this honor,” Garman said, adding that he has had an “outstanding” career and surely will be remembered as part of judicial history for “generations to come.”
Sullivan pulled the red, white and blue banner draping his plaque engraved with his image and name at the courthouse entrance.
He thanked his family, many of whom were in the crowd, and his wife, Peg Sullivan.
He said his wife, children and grandchildren “truly are the best part of my life.”
“I am at a loss for words about the honor being bestowed upon me,” Sullivan said.
He thanked his colleagues and all who work in the judicial system, whom he said he has learned much from.
Sullivan said he has kept all of his courthouse yearbooks from throughout his career because “they deserve recognition.”
“I am truly humbled,” he said. “I have learned more from my co-workers than any book or seminar, and learned how to treat people … from watching them.”
At the ceremony’s conclusion, Sullivan joked, “Well, we dedicated the joint to the old guy.”
Then he encouraged his colleagues, saying, “Turn your heads back to the future and continue the good work.”