Breaking Barriers with Judge Martha Mills and Judge LaJune Thomas Lange


March 2021 - The Human Rights Center and The Women’s Law Student Association were honored to host the distinguished Judge LaJune Thomas Lange and Judge Martha Mills on March 8, 2021, for a special International Women’s Day virtual celebration and discussion.

In this conversation, Judge Lange and Judge Mills shared their own trajectories breaking barriers and defending human rights, discussed recent milestones like the election of Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, and took questions from the audience. 

This event also featured a special introduction from Professor Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Human Rights Center Faculty Director and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. Rachel Wydra and Emily Moss from the Women’s Law Student Association, moderated. 

The Hon. Martha Mills (’65) of Chicago is a renowned pioneering civil rights attorney and has been called “an authentic lawyer-hero, courageous trailblazer, and enduring source of inspiration.” Judge Mills made history as the first woman attorney at the Wall Street law firm White & Case and then as a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Mississippi and Chief Counsel of its office in Cairo, IL. She tried hundreds of cases confronting the injustices of structural racism. She moved to Chicago as a trial lawyer, and, in 1995 was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to serve as judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County. During her tenure she was primarily in the Juvenile Justice, Child Protection Division. She was appointed again in 2007, and, under her guidance, the court strengthened its operations and piloted a restorative justice project, one of the first such programs in a family law court in this country. Judge Mills has done a great deal of consulting, educating, and training in restorative justice, violence prevention and intervention, and conflict resolution for children and adults. She has published a compelling memoir of her experiences: Lawyer, Activist, Judge: Fighting for Civil and Voting Rights in Mississippi and Illinois (Chicago: ABA Press, 2015). 

Judge LaJune Thomas Lange (ret.), Fourth Judicial District Court, Minnesota; Honorary Consul of South Africa in Minnesota; President, International Leadership Institute. The Honorable LaJune Thomas Lange began her legal career with the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office as a trial lawyer until appointed by the governor to the trial court. Judge Lange served as a Fourth Judicial District Court Judge for the State of Minnesota handling complex civil and criminal cases until her recent retirement. Judge Lange now serves as Senior Fellow with the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is a founding member of the Minnesota Minority Lawyers Association and has served on the Minnesota State Bar Association Board of Governors, Minnesota Women Lawyers, Minnesota Public Interest Research Foundation, American Bar Association, National Bar Association, Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, Minnesota Supreme Court Racial Bias Task Force. Judge Lange is an internationally recognized expert in human rights and the rule of law in developing nations.