By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Jodi Hoos knew at a young age that she wanted to work in a courtroom.
In 1987 – when she was 12 years old – her father, Larry, was killed in a car accident. Hoos attended the trial with her family three years later, and when it was over she walked away knowing she wanted a law career.
“From that time on, I knew I belonged in a courtroom. I knew I wanted to be in a courtroom and prosecute cases,” says Hoos, an Amherst native, 1997 University of Nebraska at Kearney graduate and former Loper softball standout.
“That was a tragic and extremely painful time in my life. I was young, but it became very clear to me what I wanted to do with my life in terms of my career.”
On Monday, the longtime Peoria (Illinois) County prosecutor was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill a judicial vacancy as Circuit Judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit. Her appointment ends in 2016.
A prosecutor for nearly 15 years, Hoos, 40, brings a “strong depth of trial experience to the bench,” said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas L. Kilbride.
Hoos joined the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office in 2000 and was assigned to the domestic violence courtroom. She worked her way up to prosecuting felony cases and was named chief felony prosecutor in 2007.
She has tried more than 125 jury trials and more than 40 murder cases. The one that garnered the most attention was the Nathan Leuthold murder trial in July – the first trial in the 10th Judicial Circuit in which media cameras were allowed to record and televise proceedings. The Illinois case was featured on Dateline NBC, with Hoos featured extensively.
“I didn’t expect my career to move so fast,” admits Hoos. “It has been very rewarding, and I am so fortunate and happy to be doing this.”
In addition to prosecuting cases, Hoos is responsible for supervision, training and mentoring of new assistant state’s attorneys.
“As chief of the Criminal Division, Hoos litigates most of the serious felonies charged by our office. Unquestionably, she is always prepared, knows the applicable law, and seeks to administer justice to all,” said Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady. “Her knowledge, intellect, personality and most importantly her dedication to justice and fairness will make her an excellent judge.”
Hoos graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She obtained her juris doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2000.
While at UNK, Hoos played on the Loper softball team and was a standout at third base. UNK was a combined 152-42 during her four seasons, won three Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles and reached the Elite 8 in 1996 and 1997. Hoos was named honorable mention All-RMAC and was a two-time member of the Academic All-RMAC team.
“My years in Kearney at UNK remain very meaningful,” Hoos said. “The political science department prepared me very well, and being a student-athlete shaped me into a well-rounded person. UNK broadened my horizons and opened many doors for me.”
Hoos is a member of the Peoria County Bar Association and National District Attorney’s Association. She is also a past member of the Prosecutor’s Bar Association.
“I am very humbled and honored by this appointment, and I’m excited to be in a position where I can continue to serve the citizens of Peoria County,” she said.