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2024 Presenter Bios:

SESSION:  Pretrial Fairness Act (SAFE-T Act)


Presenter:  Hon. Cara LeFevour Smith, Director – Office of Statewide Pretrial Services

Cara LeFevour Smith was appointed director of the AOIC’s Office of Statewide Pretrial Services on

September 13, 2021. Prior to that appointment, Cara was a circuit court judge in Cook County, assigned

to the juvenile justice division. Cara also previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Attorney General

Lisa Madigan and held various positions in the Cook County Sheriff’s office, including Chief Policy Officer

and executive director of the Cook County Jail. Cara is a 1992 graduate of Loyola University School of Law.



SESSION:  How the Record You Make is Used on Appeal


Hon. Mary K. O’Brien, Justice, Illinois Supreme Court (Lisle)

Justice Mary Kay O'Brien was born in Kankakee, Illinois, and raised on her family’s farm in Reddick, Illinois. She is a graduate of Western Illinois University and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois. Justice O’Brien began her legal career at the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office before going into private practice.

Justice O’Brien was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1996 and served until December 2003. Justice O’Brien spent her legislative career chairing the Judiciary II Criminal Law Committee and advocating for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Her legislative victories include expanding the statute of limitations for criminal sexual assault of a minor and requiring psychological evaluations for individuals accused of torturing animals.

Justice O'Brien was appointed to the Appellate Court on December 26, 2003. She was subsequently elected to the Appellate Court in 2004 and retained in 2014. During her tenure on the Appellate Court, Justice O’Brien served as a Commissioner on the Illinois Courts Commission, an Alternate Commissioner on the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, a member of the Appellate Court Administrative Committee, Vice-Chair of the Supreme Court Legislative Committee, the Appellate Court Access to Justice Committee and the Board of Directors of the Illinois Lawyers Assistance Program Courts Commission. Justice O’Brien has also been recognized with awards from numerous community and legal organizations including the Star Award from the Kankakee Society of Women in the Law, the Zonta Club International Woman of the Year Award (Kankakee Chapter) as well as being the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award from Western Illinois University.

Justice O’Brien was elected to the Supreme Court on November 8, 2022. Justice O’Brien lives within the Third Appellate District with her husband and her three sons.

Matthew Butler, Law Clerk, Illinois Supreme Court (Lisle)

In 2004, Matt Butler received his law degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago. He began his legal career at Legal Aid Chicago, representing survivors of domestic violence. He subsequently clerked for Justice Mary W. McDade, before accepting a position to serve as the Legal Research Director at the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District. In 2020, Mr. Butler was appointed Clerk of the Court for the Appellate Court, Third District. In December 2022, Mr. Butler was honored to accept Justice O’Brien’s offer to serve as her administrative law clerk. Working with Justice O’Brien at both the Third District and now the Illinois Supreme Court has been the highlight of his legal career.


Zachary Hooper, Clerk of the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District (Lisle)

Zachary A. Hooper was appointed Clerk of the Third District Appellate Court in March 2023. Prior to his appointment, he served the Third District as the Director of the Legal Research Department and as a Staff Attorney. He received his Juris Doctor degree with great distinction from Northern Illinois University College of Law and his Bachelor of Arts degree with great distinction from Illinois Wesleyan University.


Hon. Peter Cavanagh, Justice, Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District (Springfield)

Peter C. Cavanagh was born in Springfield, Illinois. He earned a B.S. degree in history from Illinois State University and a J.D. degree from the John Marshall Law School. Prior to taking the bench, Justice Cavanagh primarily practiced law from 1997 to 2008 as a general practitioner in Springfield. He served as an Assistant State's Attorney in Cook and Sangamon Counties and an Assistant Public Defender in Sangamon and Logan Counties.

Justice Cavanagh was appointed resident Circuit Judge of the Seventh Judicial District by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2008. He was elected, and later retained, to that position prior to being assigned and then elected to the Fourth District Appellate Court in 2018. While serving as a circuit judge, Judge Cavanagh was instrumental in the creation of the Sangamon County's Drug Treatment Court and presided over that Court until his assignment to join the appellate court. Justice Cavanagh represents the Fourth District on the Illinois Appellate Court Workers' Compensation Commission Division.

Justice Cavanagh is active in the Sangamon County Bar Association and served as its President in 2010. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law, Policy, and Government at area colleges. Justice Cavanagh is the son of former Sangamon County State's Attorney and Chief Circuit Judge C. Joseph Cavanagh.

Michelle L. Phillips, Law Clerk, Illinois Appellate Court (Springfield)

Michelle L. Phillips graduated in 1989 with a B.S. in psychology from the University of Illinois and obtained her juris doctor in 1996 from Stetson University College of Law. She started as a judicial law clerk in the Fourth District Appellate Court in 2002, working for Justice Thomas R. Appleton, Justice John P. Schmidt, and Justice Peter C. Cavanagh.


Cynthia Grant, Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court (Springfield)

Cynthia A. Grant was appointed clerk of the Supreme Court in December 2021.  Prior to her appointment, she served as assistant clerk in the Supreme Court Clerk’s office for nine years.  She has also previously served as an attorney for the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois House of Representatives.  Grant received her B.A. in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her juris doctor degree from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law.  



Jacob Jost, Reporter of Decisions, Illinois Supreme Court (All sessions)

Jacob Jost is the Reporter of Decisions for the Illinois Supreme Court. The Reporter of Decisions office edits and publishes all opinions of the appellate and supreme courts for the state of Illinois. Prior to becoming the reporter in 2016, Jost was a law clerk to the Hon. Rita B. Garman, then chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Jost received his juris doctor at the University of Illinois College of Law. In a prior life, he was executive producer of online media for WBIR-TV in Tennessee. Jost resides in the Springfield area with his wife, their three children, and a disruptively vocal cat.



SESSION:  You’re  a Steno Warrior!  The Key to Success Starts with Physical and Mental Well-Being


Presenter:  Andrea James Jent, Official Court Reporter, Second Judicial Circuit

Andrea Jent is from West Frankfort, Illinois. She attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and

completed their court reporting program in May of 1999. She worked for 13 years as a freelance

realtime court reporter. She took a job as an Official Court Reporter with the State of Illinois in 2013

and has been employed there since. She is currently serving on the Illinois Court Reporters

Association board as treasurer.


Andrea and her husband owned Blossom Fitness, a boutique fitness studio where they offered group

fitness classes and private personal training, for seven and a half years before closing it in August

2023. Although Andrea has stepped away from owning her own studio, she still continues to teach

Yoga and Barre at another local studio and is still training private clients.


Her fitness certifications include: 200-hour Yoga Teacher, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Certified

Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Pelvic Floor and Diastasis Recti Essentials Specialist, Pregnancy and

Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Shoulder Solution Specialist. She is also certified in 9

different group fitness formats. She is currently working on advanced certifications in Functional

Movement Screening and to become a Pelvis Pro Specialist.


SESSION:  Alleviating Test Anxiety


Presenter:  Georgia Northway, RPR, CSR-IL, CCR-MO

Georgia Northway, RPR, CSR-IL, CCR-MO, has been a court reporter since 2007, working in both freelance and official capacities. She spent her first nine years in the 11th and 4th Circuits in Illinois, after which she switched to freelance, serving the St. Louis metropolitan and surrounding Illinois area. She is currently an official at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Missouri. 

Georgia has been an ILCRA board member since 2013 and is the current Immediate Past President with the ILCRA board.

When she is not reporting, Georgia enjoys hiking, camping, and yoga with her husband and 14-year-old stepson. 



SESSION:  Briefs

Presenter:  Donna Urlaub, Urlaub, Bowen & Associates (Lisle and Zoom) (Springfield TBD)

Donna is a Registered Professional Reporter, Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, and member of ILCRA (Illinois Court Reporters Association), NCRA (National Court Reporters Association), and STAR (Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting). She also serves on the CSR (Certified Shorthand Reporters) Board of the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. She has over 50 years of experience in a wide range of litigation areas, with special expertise in medical and technical testimony.




SESSION:  Catalyst Software Tips


Presenter:  Pam Szczecinski - Stenograph Certified NCRA Approved Training Agent

Experience includes over 30+ years of working with Court reporters, Captioners, CART providers, Scopists, Instructors and Students worldwide on a variety of CAT, captioning, litigation support and industry standard software. A certified training agent for LEXIS/NEXIS included training judges, attorneys, paralegals, law librarians and law schools on legal research. A sales trainer for Epson created a base for hardware skills. Tutor4computers also offers new PC custom software installation, PC maintenance, and data retrieval. Additional certifications include A+ computer certification. She is NCRA approved and certified by Stenograph to teach CATalyst, captioning and voice software. Training is facilitated through a variety of methods including remote platforms GotowebinarTM, GotoMeetingTM, ZoomTM, as well as training on-site and in-house.



SESSION:  Letting Your Software Work for You - Eclipse Software


Presenter:  Tina Hoecker, Official Court Reporter

Tina Hoecker is a realtime court reporter with a career spanning nearly three decades. Having entered the field in 1995 as a freelance court reporter, Tina made the transition to an official court reporter for the Seventh Judicial Circuit in 2010. Throughout her journey, Tina has continually tried to embrace advancements in technology to enhance her work. Join her as she shares insights in Eclipse Software, empowering court reporters to let their software work for them.



SESSION:  To the Control Room and Beyond – Court Specialists and New Hires


Presenters: Tammy Gulley, Official Court Reporter/Supervisor and Robin Winters, Official Court Reporter/Supervisor


Tammy Gulley is an Official Court Reporter and a Court Reporting Services Supervisor working in the 17th Circuit in Rockford, Illinois.  Tammy graduated from MacCormac College in 2002 with an Associate in Applied Science in the Court Reporting degree program where she was also an active member of the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa.  Upon graduating, she began her career in the 18th Circuit as an Official Court Reporter working in the Electronic Recording Department where she stayed until 2004. 


From 2004 to 2006, she worked as a scopist and proofreader for Jensen Reporting in downtown Chicago.

In 2006, she returned to Court Reporting Services as an Official Court Reporter for the 17th Circuit, working in criminal and juvenile courtrooms until 2012, at which time, she was selected by her chief judge to further develop their electronic recording department.


What she loves most about her role as a supervisor is the opportunity to work alongside their court specialists, training new staff while sharing the knowledge and skills she has acquired as a court reporter, scopist, and proofreader.


Robin Winters is an Official Court Reporter and recently was promoted to Court Reporting Services Supervisor in the 17th Circuit, Rockford, working alongside Tammy.  Robin graduated from MacCormac College in 2000 with an Associate in Applied Science in Court Reporting as well as being a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  Upon graduating, she began her career in the 18th Circuit as an Official Court Reporter working in the Electronic Recording Department on their “CourtSmart” system where she stayed until 2005. 


From 2005 to 2012, she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom raising her three boys. In 2012, she saw an opportunity to jump back into the field she loves and, once again, joined Court Reporting Services as an Official Court Reporter. She currently is responsible for maintaining “For The Record” electronic recording equipment in the 17th. Robin has embraced this new opportunity to add to her skill set and looks forward to sharing her knowledge with fellow coworkers.

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