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SACA to honor Judge Coco

SACAThe Sicilian American Cultural Association will present Gloria Coco with its Medal of merit on Sept. 27 at Monastero’s Banquets in Chicago.

Tickets for the event are $40 for adults (cash bar) and $18 for children 2 to 12 years of age. Entertainment will be provided by past winners of the Bel Canto Foundation Opera Contest. (773-588–2515)

The Sicilian American Cultural Association is proud to present jurist and thespian Gloria G. Coco with its coveted Medal of Merit.

A retired Supervising Judge of the Domestic Violence Section of the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Judge Coco has an extensive theatrical resume that includes stage, television and film credits.

The daughter of Samuel J. and Graziella (Manninice Pappalardo) Coco, Judge Coco earned her B.A. from Mundelein College and her J.D. from Northern Illinois University, teaching grade school for eight years while earning her law degree.

“My father was a lawyer and a role model, but my mother inspired me as well,” Judge Coco explains. “When I was teaching and going to law school at night, I would occasionally get discouraged and at one point my principal tried to talk me out of it. When my mother heard that, she said, ‘Gloria dear, you’re going to be 28 anyway, so why not be 28 and a lawyer?’”

“Those wise words have been the mantra for whatever else I have wanted to achieve in my life,” she continues. “I’m going to be 40 anyway, why not be 40 and a judge. … I’m going to be 54 anyway, why not be 54 with a degree in radio, film and theater from Northwestern and a third career as an actor!”

Prior to her appointment to the bench in 1991, Judge Coco was an attorney with the Department of Buildings for the City of Chicago, where she created and directed the Department’s Code Enforcement Bureau. She also served as Deputy Chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, as well as Special Assistant Attorney General, creating the state’s first felony prosecution system to combat unemployment insurance fraud. She began her legal career as a prosecutor for the Cook County State’s Attorney.

Judge Coco was appointed Judge of the Circuit Court in 1991, serving in the Domestic Violence Division since 1994 and as Supervising Judge of the Division from 1997 until her retirement in 2007. As Supervising Judge, Judge Coco oversaw five courtrooms handling approximately 53,000 Domestic Violence cases per year from the city of Chicago.

“It was an honor, a privilege, and a serious responsibility to serve Illinois citizens as a member of the judiciary,” Judge Coco says. “I took great pride in knowing the law and applying it fairly to all before me, upholding the constitutional rights of both the accused, and the offended.”

Judge Coco has been extremely active in the legal community, holding countless positions of importance on the local and national level, and actively participating in the education of judges and members of the legal profession. She was the first woman president of the Justinian Society of Lawyers, earning an Impresa Award from the Women’s Division of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and a Leonardo da Vinci Award from the Illinois Grand Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America.

While serving as a judge, Judge Coco pursued her interest in the arts, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University’s School of Communications with a degree in Radio, Television, Film and Theater Performance in 2004.

“Frankly, it wasn’t much of a transition!” Judge Coco says with a laugh. “Performance was a part of my life from a very young age. When I was 3, my mother enrolled me in the Ethel and Gertrude Morgan Dancing School. By the time I was 10 years old, I had appeared on television numerous times, and I acted all through high school and college.”

Among the plays she has penned is “The Passages of Grace,” about her family’s harrowing experiences on Ellis Island. She recounted the story in the chapter she wrote for “Italian Women in Chicago,” edited by Dominic Candeloro.

Her numerous television credits include roles in “Southland,” “The Defenders” and “Parks and Recreation.” She has acted in “Public Enemy” staring Johnny Depp as well as several indie films, and has done commercial work for the likes of Coca Cola and Tropicana.

She currently serves as chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Media and Entertainment Law Committee and Assistant Course Director for the National College of District Attorneys Annual Conference on Family Violence, and is a co-founder and partner in Law and Order Consulting, which shares legal expertise with film and theatrical events and projects.

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Fra Noi produces a magazine and website that serve the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Our magazine offers our readers a monthly feast of news and views, culture and entertainment that keeps our diverse and widely scattered readers in touch with each other and their heritage. Our website offers a dizzying array of information drawn from every corner of the local community.