In 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court announced the appointment of Jayne (maiden name Rizzo) Reardon as executive director of the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, a body established to improve civility between and among lawyers, their clients and judges in Illinois.
Ms. Reardon, a University of Michigan Law School graduate who is an experienced Illinois lawyer and licensed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, had served as deputy director of the Commission since 2006, shortly after it was established by the Supreme Court. During that time, she has been a key formulator of policy approved by the commission and a facilitator of quality continuing legal education in the area of professional responsibility.
According to its mission statement, the purpose behind the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism is “to promote a professional culture in which lawyers and judges embody the ideals of our profession in service to their clients, to the administration of justice and to the public good.”
Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Thomas initiated the concept of the Commission to improve professionalism among lawyers and judges, and the full Supreme Court established the commission in September 2005. Of course, Justice Thomas is the second Italian-American to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court, the other being his predecessor, Justice Moses W. Harrison II (his mother’s maiden name being Darfado).
When Justice Thomas recommended its formation, he described its mission in a more secular way: help the profession return to the “days past when a lawyer’s handshake meant something and a lawyer’s word was his bond;” rid the profession of “activities that sometime degenerate into a Rambo-style, win-at-all cost attitude by attorneys.”
The commission works with Illinois law schools in the development and presentation of professionalism programs for new law student orientation programs. It has arranged for Supreme Court and Appellate Court justices to give remarks to these entering law students and has enlisted practitioners to discuss professionalism issues with law students, encouraging them to begin their law career with an eye toward civility and professionalism. At these gatherings with new students, the justices also administer a Pledge of Professionalism.
The commission also promotes an awareness among lawyers of their professional responsibility to provide pro bono public services (services in the public interest without compensation).
The commission has achieved its goals with limited staff and budget. No taxpayer dollars are involved. The commission is funded by a small portion of the annual registration and licensing fees paid by Illinois attorneys.
Ms. Reardon believes one of the challenges in building civility in the legal culture is to remind lawyers — and the public — that lawyers have multiple roles and, hence, many responsibilities and many opportunities for affecting people in and out of the profession.
Before receiving her Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 1983, Ms. Reardon earned her B.A. in government and urban studies from the University of Notre Dame.
She began her legal career with Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, where she was involved in all aspects of commercial and tort litigation, including trial and major appellate work. She also served on the firm’s Recruiting Committee and Employee Assistance Advisory Committee.
From 1990 to 1996, Ms. Reardon handled product liability, employment, commercial and medical malpractice litigation matters at Kelley, Drye & Warren.
She was Review Board counsel at the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission from 1996 to 2006, when she joined the Commission on Professionalism. As a member of this appellate/reviewing level of the lawyer disciplinary process for nine years, the last three as supreme court appointed chair, I became very familiar with the skills and charisma of this dynamic professional.
Proud of her Italian (Sicilian!) ancestry, Jayne writes: “My 89 year old father, Paul Rizzo, led a family reunion of sorts to the native land of Sicily this summer. Including children and grandchildren, 27 Rizzos spent a week touring the island, spending special time in the area outside of Trapani where Paul’s parents, Crispino Rizzo and Vincenza Spada, were born. We visited the now rundown stone edifice marking a Spada farmhouse, smelling the pepper tree, noting the fields of artichokes, and taking many photos. There was a poignant lunch where Paul connected with a Spada third — maybe fourth — cousin in a restaurant in Erice. It was a trip of a lifetime, and one we will all treasure. My dad’s family came from nothing and when we were growing up, he did not share much of his Italian heritage, living out the ‘assimilate to obtain the American dream mentality.’ Now toward the end of his life, he is re-visiting that approach and his roots, and I am so grateful to be taken along for the trip!”