Rockford attorney on verge of fulfilling childhood dream

·3 min read
Tamika Walker will be sworn in as a 17th Circuit Court associate judge on Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Tamika Walker will be sworn in as a 17th Circuit Court associate judge on Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

ROCKFORD — Watching cartoons in bed was and still is the remedy for countless youngsters when they are sick and out of school.

Not so for Tamika Walker.

"When you are home sick from school, you have to watch what the adults are watching," she said. "So I watched 'The People's Court.'

"I saw what the judge was doing, and I was like, 'I want to do that.' So, when I learned you had to be a lawyer first, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And I just started taking steps very early in my life to lead me toward that goal."

Thanks in no small way to Judge Joseph Wapner and 'The People's Court' — the first in a long line of reality TV courtroom shows — Walker's childhood goal of becoming a judge will soon come to fruition. She will take her oath of office Wednesday as the next associate judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court.

More: Winnebago County wants a new tool to fight gun crimes. Here's how it would work

A spot on the bench was created when Associate Judge Mary Linn Green announced her retirement, effective Tuesday.

Walker's path to the bench included earning her Bachelor of Social Work from Indiana University in 2001, a Master of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University in 2002, and a Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 2005.

She started her law career as an assistant public defender in the Winnebago County Public Defender’s Office and later joined the law firm of Sreenan & Cain, P.C., which was reorganized as Schafer DeRango & Cain, LLP and again as DeRango & Cain, LLC, where Walker currently practices law representing clients in family law disputes and juvenile abuse, neglect and dependency proceedings.

As a child, Walker said her perception of a judge was someone who told people what to do.

"But as I have learned more in practiced law, I understand that it is really a lot less about telling people what to do than it is trying to ensure that the justice system is fair," she said, "and ensuring that everyone is heard and making sure that the judge does their best to make sure the proper rulings are placed on record."

Walker believes her 12 years in family court will serve her and those who come before her well, especially those with children.

"It was really trying to get people through one of the most difficult times in their lives with the understanding that you can litigate for years in family court if you choose to. But, that's not the way that I've tried to practice law.

"I did my best to practice from a philosophy of understanding that when I leave a case, these people are still going to have to work together. So, I tried to facilitate cooperation and tried to work toward a resolution whenever possible."

More: Rockford church to help bring free legal advice for civil cases to low-income residents

When Walker takes her oath she will join Judge Gwyn Gulley as only the second Black female judge in the 17th Circuit.

Chief Judge John Lowry said Walker's experience in criminal, family law and juvenile courtrooms and "exceptional interpersonal skills will serve her well."

"Her contributions to the legal profession through organized bar activities reflect her genuine commitment to the law," he said. "Ms. Walker was selected from a group of outstanding candidates. We are confident she will do an excellent job and look forward to working with her.”

Chris Green: 815-987-1241; cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Rockford lawyer brings 'exceptional interpersonal skills' to the bench