Hooton Week

On July 5, 1919, Judge Hooton was born in New York, NY. After people laughed at her childhood aspiration to be President of the United States, Judge Hooton realized she first had to become a lawyer. She spent her undergraduate years at Seton Hill College and West Virginia University before she earned her J.D. from DePaul University in 1943.

During her 33-year career in private practice and later as a judge, Judge Hooton attempted to make women lawyers more known and accepted. As WBAI’s President in 1976-1977, Judge Hooton’s single charge was that women “keep their heads up and keep going.” WBAI submits Judge Hooton’s goal was reasonable and today, it is our mandate!

Join us the next few days as we celebrate the professional life and legacy of Judge Hooton in Chicago’s legal community and in the history of the WBAI that culminates at a cocktail reception hosted by Ankin Law Offices, 10 N. Dearborn 8th Floor on September 20 from 5 – 6:30 p.m.

Credit: WBAI – The First 75 Years, Charlotte Adelman, Turner Publishing (1992).

The Early Years

The year is 1943. The United States is fully engaged in World War II. Prior to the war, most female law school graduates were only offered administrative positions. However, as more men were called to war, not only were women filling vacancies in factories, they were taking jobs in law firms and being given the opportunity to practice law. 1943 is also the year that Mary Heftel Hooton graduated from DePaul University Law School. After graduating, she worked in private practice for thirty-three years, specializing in family law.

“First Name on Ballot, First in Merit”

In 1976, Mary Heftel Hooton was elected to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Her husband William Heftel chaired her campaign. Denied backing from the Democratic Party because she was a woman, she ran as an independent and secured victory. Judge Hooton sat on the bench for 16 years, serving in Juvenile and Housing Court as well as filling the role of supervising judge of contracts and torts in the First Municipal Court. In her honor, the WBAI established the Mary Heftel Hooton Award which has been awarded to several state Circuit, Appellate and Supreme Court judges as well as federal judges.

Champion For Children’s Rights

Judge Hooton served in the Juvenile Court where she championed children’s rights. Her conviction was apparent in a controversial move she made, Judge Hooton removed children from the custody of the state Department of Children and Family Services when she saw that the Department was unable to care for foster children. Her actions in this regard prompted the governor of Illinois to launch an investigation into the Department. While criticized in newspapers, family law professionals in praised Judge Hooton for standing up for children. Her personal life was no different-, in twenty years, she and her husband fostered twenty children. Judge Hooton’s commitment to family law is evidenced by the participation of the family law bar and bench in the WBAI’s annual Domestic Round Table Committee.

Mary Heftel Hooton Award

In Judge Hooton’s memory, the WBAI established the Mary Heftel Hooton Award to honor those who advance the cause of women lawyers. WBAI’s most recent recipients of this award include Judge Clare McWilliams, Justice Terrence Lavin, Judge Virginia Kendall, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge Grace G. Dickler and Judge Kenneth Wright. The WBAI honors these recipients for their exceptional leadership, professionalism, and efforts in advancing women in the law. Judge Hooton’s law school classmate, Judge Harry Comerford said “She (Judge Hooton) was a unique lady who combined compassion and caring with justice. She had priorities and believed in them 100 percent, never swerving.”

Hooton Fund Cocktail Reception

As Hooton Week comes to an end, WBAI honors the woman who not only made her mark in the legal community through her career and indelible legacy for the future of women lawyers. Judge Hooton died in 1993, leaving her estate to the WBAI. With this gift, the WBAI established the Mary Heftel Hooton Fund. Shortly after the WBAI received the gift, the WBAI used the Hooton Fund to purchase its home-an office on the Fourth Floor of the CBA Building. WBAI’s Hooton Fund is used to pay monthly assessments and capital reserve payments to the CBA Building, real estate taxes, and to operate the office, think computers, software, to name just two office expenses.

Today, the Hooton Fund is managed under the care and expertise of Diana Joseph, lawyer and Co-CIO, Partner and Senior Advisor at Telemus. With Diana’s knowledge and advice, The Hooton Committee monitors the fund to ensure it is protected as best as possible from economic uncertainty and it grows.

To help WBAI continue to grow the Hooton Fund, we ask for your participation. Please contribute to Judge Hooton’s legacy and make a donation, no amount is too small, for the Hooton Fund.

We can’t wait to celebrate the Judge Hooton and the future of the Hooton Fund with you over cocktails, Thursday, September 20 at Akin Law Offices (10 N. Dearborn, 8th Floor) from 5:00 to 6:30!