Judy Cates was born on April 22, 1952 and was raised in Belleville, Illinois. She attended Cornell University, receiving a B.A. in Government in 1973. She went on to receive her juris doctorate in 1977 from the Washington University School of Law - St. Louis. Before joining the Appellate Court, Judy Cates first practiced law as an Assistant State's Attorney for St. Clair County, Illinois. After leaving the State's Attorney's office, she entered private practice, concentrating in complex litigation cases, such as personal injury, class actions, mass actions, sexual harassment and corporate disputes. Justice Cates was engaged in the private practice of law for 30 years prior to being elected to the 5th District Appellate Court in 2012. She was admitted to practice law in Illinois, Missouri and Florida. She was a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, Missouri Bar Association, and Florida Bar Association. She was also admitted to practice in many federal courts across the country and enjoyed a nationwide reputation. Justice Cates was the first woman to serve as President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, was named one of the Top 50 Women lawyers in the State of Illinois and recognized by her peers as a SuperLawyer with a Martindale-Hubbell rating of AV-Preeminent. She is married to Darrell Cates, and they have three children - Dave, Lauren and Robby.