Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.) - ADR Systems

ADR Systems


Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.)

Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.)


Judge Kay Hanlon, (Ret.) grew up in a small town in central Illinois (LaSalle-Peru). She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1982 and earned her law degree from the DePaul University College of Law in 1985. She then joined the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, rising to the role of Deputy Bureau Chief for the Juvenile Justice Bureau. Immediately prior to that position, she served in the Gang Crimes Special Prosecution Unit. Following several years in private practice, Judge Hanlon was elected to the bench in 2004 from a suburban Cook County Subcircuit. She retired from the bench at the end of 2018, and joined ADR Systems as a senior mediator and arbitrator.

As a neutral, Judge Hanlon combines the lessons she learned growing up in a small town with her experience as a trial Judge. It is these life experiences that allow her to easily relate to people. Judge Hanlon’s strengths are her engaging personality, which enables her to gain the trust of parties in dispute, and her work ethic. She gets high praise from both the plaintiff and defense bars for her preparation and persistence in securing settlements while never losing her positive attitude. Judge Hanlon has settled complex cases from Southern, Central and Northern Illinois in a variety of matters such as medical malpractice, industrial and construction accidents, nursing home negligence, sexual abuse and insurance coverage.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Since joining ADR Systems in 2019, Judge Hanlon has served as a full-time mediator and arbitrator
  • 14-year judicial career in the Circuit Court of Cook County, serving in the First and Third Municipal Districts and later the Law Division, 2004-2018
  • 19-year legal career, including private practice at Law Office of Kay M. Hanlon, 1997-2004; Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney where she served in the Appellate Division, Felony Trial Division, Gang Crimes Unit, Narcotics Unit and was the Deputy Chief of the Juvenile Justice Bureau, 1985-1997
  • Mediation Certificate, Northwestern University

Representative Cases

  • Eminent Domain: a county forest preserve district took plaintiff’s open land pursuant to an ordinance that turned out not to have been properly adopted; after twenty years of litigation the case settled, providing the landowner with compensation for the value of the ranch
  • Employment: deputy assigned to courtroom security was a union member and claimed to be “locked out” of her employment without due process; lock out occurred after employer received unsubstantiated reports that the deputy had made comments indicating deputy may have been a threat to fellow deputies; deputy placed on disability leave; case settled in just two hours despite highly recalcitrant parties
  • Medical Malpractice: doctor’s delayed response to hospital’s phone calls led to delayed transfusion needed by newborn and subsequent brain damage
  • Medical Malpractice: delivery delay led to baby suffering hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy within 20 minutes of birth causing severe brain damage
  • Medical Malpractice: man experiencing coughing and hoarseness underwent a biopsy of his vocal cords; physician found keratosis—a benign condition—and not cancer; less than a year later, man underwent another biopsy with a finding of late-stage laryngeal cancer
  • Nursing Home: a 60-year-old man was recuperating in a nursing home following heart surgery; the man suffered several falls during physical therapy resulting in a broken ankle
  • Personal Injury and Product Liability: construction worker injured on the job when a lifting loop attached to a pre-cast concrete slab snapped, causing the chain to recoil and hit the worker in the head; worker suffered a traumatic brain injury; the designer, manufacturer and the construction company were all found liable
  • Wrongful Death: driver of medical van transporting 102- year-old and other elderly passengers ran a red light and struck another vehicle; the 102-year-old passenger died; settled the case despite the medical van’s company declaring bankruptcy
  • Wrongful Death: police chased a fleeing suspect at high speed; suspect ran a stop sign and collided with a van driven by a 53- year-old woman resulting in the woman’s death; city and police officers were found liable for willful and wonton conduct

Professional Activities and Awards

  • Former Adjunct Professor, DePaul University College of Law
  • Former Instructor, Kaplan University Legal Education
  • Faculty, State of Illinois Judicial Education Conference
  • Member, Chicago Bar Association (CBA)
  • Member, Illinois State Bar Association
  • Member, Northwest Suburban Bar Association (NWSBA)
  • Member, Justinian Society of Lawyers
  • Member, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois
  • Former Member, Illinois Judges Association
  • Member, Illinois Judges Association Committee on Wellness
  • Member, CBA Committee on Wellness
  • Former Member, Board of Directors, Youth Services
  • Mentoring Judge, Circuit Court Mentoring Program
  • Judge for the Third District Award, NWSBA

Presentations and Publications

  • Presenter, “Trial Preparation and Presentation,” CBA
  • Panelist, “Helping You Help the Jury,” Annual Symposium with the Judges, Law Bulletin Seminars
  • Presenter, “Current Trends in Evidence,” American Institute for Justice
  • Presenter, “Eminent Domain,” NWSBA
  • Presenter, “Preliminary Issues in a Criminal Case,” NWSBA
  • Panelist, “Jury Trials in the Law Division,” Law Bulletin Symposium
  • Presenter, “Perspectives from the Bench,” Illinois Trial Lawyers Symposium


  • JD, DePaul University College of Law
  • BA, University of Illinois


  • Illinois State Bar

I had another first-class service from a first-class organization. We had a very good arbitration experience with Judge Ward.  He was a terrific arbitrator who patiently listened and made all parties feel important, including my client.  And after the arbitration, Judge Ward wrote a thoughtful ruling. Thank you again – ADR Systems is the best!