Justice Mikva started her legal career as a law clerk for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and Judge Prentice Marshall. She worked as a criminal defense lawyer with Patrick A. Tuite, left to join the Harold Washington team in the Corporation Council’s office and then practiced as a plaintiffs’ employment attorney. Justice Mikva graduated cum laude, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, 1980.
Justice Mikva was elected to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2004. She was assigned to the Child Protection Division for six years. In that assignment, she organized and taught classes for attorneys and other judges on parental rights and the Juvenile Court Act. She also became very involved with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington D.C.
In 2010 Justice Mikva was assigned to the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court. In this new position, she handled some of the most complicated and challenging cases to come before the circuit court, including cases on pension reform, pension underfunding, legislative remaps and large class actions.
In 2016 the Illinois Supreme Court chose her for assignment to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. In that role she has been Presiding Judge of the Second, First, and Sixth Divisions and served as Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee. She has presented at numerous appellate court conferences, helped to craft the supreme court rules for appeals under new criminal justice reform statutes and initiated a committee to develop training and fair compensation for lawyers representing parents in child protection cases.
Justice Mikva has successfully run countywide for retention in 2010, 2016 and 2022. She received positive bar ratings each time she ran from all bar associations. These included a rating of “Well Qualified” by the Chicago Council of Lawyers and “Highly Recommended” by the Suburban Bar Association in 2022. Throughout her judicial career Justice Mikva has been active in judicial education.
Justice Mikva is part of the Access to Justice Remote Access Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court. She has been active in the Illinois Judges Association. She has judged numerous moot court and trial competitions for Chicago’s law schools and for the ABA and for the ISBA High School Mock Trial Competition. She remains involved with the Mikva Challenge, an organization that was started in honor of her parents and whose mission is to develop youth to be empowered, informed and active citizens.
Mary Mikva grew up in a household where social justice and contribution to the community were core values. Her father Abner Mikva was a beloved advocate for civil liberties and civil rights who served as a Congressman, a Federal Judge, as White House Counsel under President Clinton and as an advisor to President Obama. Her mother, Zorita (Zoe) Mikva, was a public-school teacher in Evanston and in Washington D.C.
Justice Mikva lives with her husband, Steven Cohen, and their dog, Max, in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.