Never too late — Garcia follows heart on way to becoming Will County judge
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2013 8:50PM
Will County Judge David Garcia | Janet Lundquist~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:57PM
It’s never too late to pursue a dream.
That’s the lesson Will County’s first Hispanic judge learned when he decided to follow his heart in middle age.
David Garcia said he knew he wanted to be a lawyer at the ripe old age of 5.
Inspired by the movie Anatomy of a Murder, Garcia said he didn’t go to law school until almost 30 years later.
His career took another step up last month when he officially became an associate judge — and Will County’s first Hispanic judge.
“Time is going to pass, no matter what,” Garcia, 57, said. “If it’s going to take four years to get a master’s (degree), don’t let time stop you.
“I didn’t want to end up on my death bed saying I never tried,” he said.
The fact that he grew up in a dangerous Chicago neighborhood didn’t smooth Garcia’s path to law school.
He credits his mother for keeping his childhood straight, away from the influence of gangs and crime. While he had friends who were gang members, Garcia said he wasn’t interested in joining, so they left him alone.
“They didn’t recruit like they do now,” Garcia said.
While he kept his head down, he narrowly avoided the fray. Such as one time when a motorcycle gang rode through his neighborhood looking for someone who wound up dead the next day, he said.
“I’ve seen people opening their front door, shooting a machine gun,” he said.
He left home at 19, eventually managing departments at several food service companies.
At age 34, married with two children, Garcia decided to go back to school.
After four years of working full time and attending Kent Chicago College of Law at night, Garcia passed the bar and began a private practice.
Following the “Anatomy of a Murder” example, Garcia left Chicago and set up shop in the smaller town of Joliet.
For a while, he was the only Hispanic attorney in town, he said. He was accepted with open arms by the local attorneys, and said he never felt a twinge of racism.
When he was sworn in as a judge on Aug. 14, Garcia became the county’s first Hispanic judge.
The fact that Will County hasn’t had a Hispanic person on the bench before now had a lot to do with the small number of Hispanic attorneys in the county, he said. Most of the Hispanic attorneys he knows stayed in Chicago to practice, he added.
“The judges here decided to correct the fact that there was not a Latino judge,” he said.
Now Garcia hears cases in the county’s family court division.
“I have a lot of respect for the judges here, and (applying for judgeship) was just the next step,” Garcia said. “You’ve got to set a goal and do it.”