Robert L. Carter became a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court on December 8, 2020. Carter was nominated to the court on November 10 to replace former Justice Thomas Kilbride, who lost the seat after failing to meet the 60% vote threshold required by Illinois law for judges to remain on the bench. Kilbride received 56.5% of the vote in his retention election on November 3.
Under Illinois law, the Illinois Supreme Court appoints its own interim members in the event of a vacancy, as in this case. Justice Carter will serve until December 5, 2022, when he will be required to run in a partisan election for the seat. The winner of that election will serve a full 10-year term on the seven-member supreme court. Including Carter, four justices joined the court through appointment; the other three justices were elected.
Prior to his appointment to the Illinois Supreme Court, Carter was a judge of the Illinois Third District Appellate Court from 2006 to 2020. He was appointed to the position to succeed Judge Tobias Barry. Before that, Carter was a judge of the Illinois 13th Circuit Court from 1979 to 2006. He became the chief judge in 1993.
Carter obtained an A.B. in 1968 and a J.D. in 1974 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He also received his M.A. in administration from Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois, Springfield) in 1974. Before attending graduate and law school, he served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
In 2020, there have been 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, one vacancy occurred when a justice was not retained, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.