Lake County Public Defender Joy Gossman receives a certification of appreciation during a Lake County board meeting in June before her retirement from her position. | Provided Photo

Lake County’s chief public defender, who was the first woman in the history of Lake County in the role, has retired after 37 years of service in the office.

Joy Gossman began her career as an intern with the Lake County Public Defender’s Office in 1987.

She has served in every division of the office since 1989.

Gossman was promoted to Deputy Chief Public Defender in 1997 and in 2007 she was appointed Chief Public Defender, a role she served in for 17 years.

“Today, we celebrate the remarkable career of a truly exceptional individual, the retirement of head public defender Joy Gossman. She is the first female and the longest-serving public defender in the history of Lake County. It is an honor to acknowledge the contributions Joy has made to our legal community and the justice system as the Lake County Public Defender,” said Deputy Chief Judge Patricia Fix on behalf of herself and Chief Judge Daniel Shanes.

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Fix said Gossman has shown an “unwavering commitment to justice, ensuring that the most vulnerable among us receive the defense they deserve.”

“Her dedication is a testament to her character and a source of inspiration for all of us. Through countless cases, she has demonstrated a deep sense of empathy, a sharp legal mind, and an unyielding dedication to upholding the principles of fairness and equality,” Fix said.

Gossman said she decided it was time to retire following her 37 years of defending the indigent accused.

Lake County Public Defender Joy Gossman receives a certification of appreciation during a Lake County board meeting in June before her retirement from her position. | Provided Photo

“I am thankful for the opportunity that the Circuit Judges of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit gave me; instilling confidence needed to lead the Lake County Public Defender’s Office. Their appointment allowed me to expand the Office, increase the number of attorneys on staff, add social workers, and hire an immigration analyst, investigators, and support staff,” she said.

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“Thank you to my mentors throughout my career; the guidance has been invaluable. I could not have imagined spending my entire legal career serving as a public defender. However, I knew after my first day in the Office as an intern through today that I was doing what I was always meant to do,” Gossman added.

Gossman was the first public defender in the nation to be granted a certified facility dog, Duo Dog Simba, who works with adult clients and abused and neglected minors in juvenile court.

Circuit Judge Victoria Rossetti said working with Gossman for the past 37 years has been a privilege.

“We have worked collaboratively, whether adversarial or with her as Public Defender and me as Judge. It has been a pleasure; she has been an activist. The system would have failed without her vision and ability to collaborate with the courts and all our justice partners,” Rossetti said.

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“Thank you, Joy, for your leadership and service. You have the admiration of your colleagues and all of us at the 19th Judicial Circuit. You have served on the frontlines; you have served justice, ensuring the indigent accused have their rights protected. That is your legacy,” Rossetti added.

Under state law, the circuit judges of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit select the Lake County public defender.

That individual independently manages the public defender’s office. An interim public defender will be named to fulfill the role until a permanent placement is announced.