Judge Karmeier Reflects On Life, Lessons And Rising Up To The State’s Highest Court
By Leah Williams
Lloyd Karmeier’s office is full of treasures, mementos from his storied career in public service and in the courtroom. Certificates, photographs, answering messages from those who have helped him in his election. There are even bricks from the first courthouse in Washington County.
And going through it all, putting it in boxes to move on, the whole process is bring back lots of memories.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions,” Karmeier said. “I have been so blessed that I have been able to be involved in over the years. It’s hard to believe that it is suddenly coming to an end.”
Justice Karmeier will retire from the Illinois Supreme Court on Dec. 6. He is one of three justices who have risen through the court systems to join the High Court, a position he has held since 2004.
Karmeier attended a one-room grade school and graduated as the valedictorian in 1958 from Okawville Community High School He earned his bachelor’s degree and his law degree from the University of Illinois. He later clerked for former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Byron O. House from 1964 to 1968. He was the Washington County State’s Attorney from 1968 to 1972. He also clerked for former US District Court Judge James L. Foreman and practiced law for Hohlt, House, DeMoss & Johnson.
Karmeier was the resident circuit judge in Washington County from 1986 to 2004, when he was elected to the state Supreme Court.
“No regrets,” Karmeier said of both his time in office and on the bench. “It’s time. I sometimes think I could have gone on a few more years but then I don’t want people saying ‘You know he should have gotten off a little sooner.’” So I am kinda going off my own terms. I am pleased that it is Justice Overstreet who is replacing me. He is young and can keep doing this for a couple more terms.”
Karmeier said one of his favorite memories was dressing to hear oral arguments for the first time in the Illinois Supreme Court.
“I honored my mentors and former employer Justice House by wearing his robe on the bench,” he said. “Also, every time I heard something in my last term in Springfield, I realized it was the end of an era. I was really privileged to have been on the court for so many years.”
Karmeier said he learned a valuable lesson early in life that he has applied to nearly every chapter of his professional career. Justice House and his former law partners taught him that he should treat others the way he would want to be treated and the importance of always keeping your word.
“It’s pretty obvious that anything is possible,” he said. “ I attribute any success that I may have had to my parents. Their work ethic that they instilled in me, their consideration in how you treat other people no matter how you are treated yourself, goes a long way in helping set your own personality and character.
“Things work out. You have to be at the right place at the right time for some positions and that doesn’t always lend itself for everyone. I happened to be fortunate to have that opportunity.”
Karmeier said since the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted much of the in-person responsibilities during his last year on the bench, it almost had “prepared me for retirement.”
Justice Karmeier and his wife, Mary, currently reside in Nashville, Illinois. They have two children and six grandchildren. Karmeier said he has plans to visit his family in Colorado and take trips to his condo in Florida during his retirement.
“I’ve been very grateful for the people in Washington County for supporting me as a lawyer as a judge and on the Supreme Court,” he said.