Brian Mackey contributed reporting from Springfield.
The first woman to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court has died.
Mary Ann G. McMorrow was 83 years old. A statement from the Supreme Court says she died Saturday after a brief illness.
McMorrow was first elected to the state's highest court in 1992, one of a series of achievements in a legal career that spanned 50 years. She was the only woman in the Loyola University law school class of 1953, and was the first woman to prosecute felonies in Cook County.
"She was smart, she was tough, but she always treated everybody with dignity and respect, even as she did on the Supreme Court," said former governor Jim Thompson in 2006, when McMorrow retired from the court. Thompson was a colleague of McMorrow's in the Cook County prosecutor's office.
While on the high court, McMorrow wrote the 1997 opinion that struck down Illinois' cap on non-economic damages awarded to plaintiffs who were injured because of negligence. She also served a term as chief justice.
In a statement, current chief justice Thomas Kilbride called McMorrow a role model for all lawyers, regardless of gender:
"Being the first woman on the Court and to serve as Chief Justice, she was an inspiration to all woman in the law in Illinois. ... Her legacy looms large over the Illinois legal system, evidence by the fact we are the first court to include three women. Justice McMorrow was top-tier. She was devoted to the law and justice; but was always collegial and good-humored. We will all miss her grace, elegance and style. Most of all, we shall miss her."