Raising triplets as a single mother, representing the people of Cook County as an Assistant States Attorney, and being an active member of our community has prepared Marcia O’Brien Conway to serve as a judge.
Marcia grew up in a close-knit family where family, country, and community were an integral part of life. As a family they supported each other through successes and failures, always encouraging the application of perseverance and humor in both the best and worst of times.
Her father was a World War II veteran; his father immigrated to the United States and later served in World War I. Marcia’s mother, through her mother’s ancestry, served as an officer in the Daughters of the American Revolution and was also the child of a father who was an immigrant. The promise and the reality of a better way of life in the United States was important to her grandparents and parents and was instilled in their children. Marcia learned at a young age the importance of giving back to the community and helping others whenever possible.
As a young woman working as a government lawyer, and also a mother of triplets with serious medical conditions, Marcia was often cash-strapped. She cites as a formative moment being asked for a loan by someone less fortunate. She sought her father’s advice as to whether to make the loan and create a more precarious financial situation for her children and herself. His response was immediate. He advised making the loan. When asked for his reasoning, he responded, “You wouldn’t be asking me if it was impossible for you to make this loan, and so you should, because you can.”
In emulating their parents’ example, Marcia, and her brother and sister all studied the law and became lawyers, which has allowed each to do the greatest amount of good. For Marcia, the opportunity to give back through legal work began while in law school. She worked at her school’s legal clinic. The clinic represented people who were unable to afford legal representation. While at the clinic, she successfully represented a client with intellectual disabilities who had previously been denied Medicare benefits. She presented the facts, and the law, and as a result, an administrative law judge reversed the prior decision and ordered Medicare benefits for the client.
In her practice with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Civil Division, Marcia worked to assist residents in need. For example, the county intended to engage in the Home Program—federal grants to local governments designed to increase affordable housing opportunities for low and very low-income persons. In order for the county to actively participate, she drafted the legal documents (e.g., note, mortgage, restrictive covenants, loan agreements) tailored for, and utilized by, the Home Program to distribute funds, primarily to Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs). Marcia conducted dozens of closings with CHDOs that used the funds to develop affordable housing for low and very low-income residents in Cook County, including group homes for people with disabilities.
Her legal work also assisted Cook County in helping disadvantaged persons in other areas. She performed the legal work that provided the leasing of county land and the provision of county services for the construction and operation of the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center. The mission of the Center is to care for people with infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, without regard to their ability to pay. Another rewarding area of legal work was obtaining federal and county approval for Vision House to provide apartments and a continuum of care to individuals and families affected by a protected medical disability on Provident Hospital grounds.
In representing the county and its officers in property tax litigation with commercial and industrial property owners, Marcia has saved local tax districts in Cook County as much as $50 million in public revenue per year—revenue that otherwise would not be available for providing needed public services to the people of Cook County through their communities.
In addition to her legal work, Marcia has served for several years on various local commissions in the community. At her children’s school, while working for the State’s Attorney’s Office, she served as room mom, art mom and Cub Scout leader, for multiple years. During the course of raising her triplets she met her best friend who recently became her husband.
Marcia raised her children from birth as a single mother, while working as an attorney. Mike, Maggie and Jack have undergone numerous surgeries, therapies and doctors’ visits. She understands what it is like to struggle medically, physically, emotionally and financially, and to be viewed as outsiders as a result. Her life experiences have made her a more compassionate person to those who are struggling in any area of life.
Marcia has learned to juggle numerous responsibilities at once and to always seek balance in life. Her circumstances have increased her creativity and problem-solving skills, while she always remains aware that good and fair decisions must be made, and often in an accelerated fashion for the benefit of those affected by the outcome. These professional and personal experiences would serve to enhance Marcia’s skills, compassion, and temperament as a judge.