Court’s in session: NEIU professor turned judge


Laura Rojas, Writer

Michael Gerber, an NEIU professor of 37 years, has been appointed judge of the circuit court of Cook County effective Dec. 22, 2016.

Gerber teaches business law in the College of Business and Management and has been with the university since 1980. Not only has he been a teacher for nearly three decades, but he is also a lawyer and practiced law while teaching his classes; he is the longest serving state attorney prosecutor in the history of Illinois.

“I know that he was a tough, fair, and a moral prosecutor,” said Stijepko Tokic, department chair of accounting, business law, and finance within COBM.

“It’s very difficult to become a judge; you really have to be an upstanding citizen, not just an upstanding lawyer, because of the scrutiny you face as a judge. You essentially have the power of somebody’s fate,” Tokic said.

Gerber explained that there had been a fair amount of lawyers on his father’s side of the family and teachers on his mother’s side. For as long as he could remember, he always wanted to do both.

As for becoming a judge, Gerber said, “I think I always had that in the back of my mind. And after I got into the courtrooms I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

“I was appointed to fill a vacancy,” Gerber said. “And I will eventually have to run in an election.” Gerber was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court and will have to run in 2018.

The process for the election will begin with Gerber obtaining enough signatures to be placed on the ballot for the election and then competing in the primary election in March 2018.

If Gerber secures the nomination in the primaries, he will run in the general election in November 2018. The term for a circuit court judge is six years if elected, with the opportunity of being reappointed for two years until he is able to run again.

Gerber completed his undergraduate degree in political science at Roosevelt. He then earned his law degree from DePaul University.

When Gerber graduated, he went straight into teaching simultaneously at NEIU and Roosevelt starting in 1982. However, teaching at both universities while practicing law became a strain.

“It got to be too much. I was teaching here, I was teaching there and I was state’s attorney,” he said. “Something had to give.” So he left Roosevelt in 1990 and solely taught classes at NEIU.

“I think NEIU is outstanding,” Gerber said as he expressed his affection for the university and its students. “I really enjoy this school, and I enjoy it because it’s local, it’s so diverse—it’s so interesting the different cultures, the different religions, the different backgrounds that people have when they come to this school. It’s a great mix.”

So far as a judge, Gerber has mostly dealt with traffic court.

Gerber still plans on teaching at NEIU while serving as a judge of the circuit court.

Currently he has been teaching two classes in the fall, two in the spring and one over the summer.