Press Release

NIU College of Law Expands List of Alumni Judges
Including First Latino Judge in Kane County, IL

February 7, 2013

DeKalb, Ill.--The Northern Illinois University College of Law is pleased to announce the appointments of six more of its alumni to the distinguished list of graduates who serve in the judiciary: Leonardo Castro (’92), Rene Cruz (’95), Timothy J. Cusack (’89), Chrystel L. Gavlin (’96), John Benjamin “Ben” Roe IV (’00), and Bradley J. Waller ('88). Out of nearly 3700 alumni, NIU Law now has 85 judges that serve or have served throughout the state and across the country.

Hon. Leonardo CastroHon. Leonardo Castro, a 1992 alumnus, was appointed District Court Judge in the Second Judicial District of Minnesota on June 1, 2012. Castro most recently worked as managing attorney for the Second District Public Defender’s Office, where he oversaw all misdemeanor cases in the city of St. Paul and its suburbs. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Saint Thomas School of Law. Previously, Castro also served as Chief Public Defender for the Fourth and Fifth Judicial Districts of Minnesota and worked in general practice at Riha Law Office. He is Deputy General Counsel for the National Hispanic Bar Association and a former Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. In 2009, Castro received the Distinguished Service Award from the NIU Law Alumni Council for his career achievements and commitment to public service. Castro graduated from the University of Maryland, University College, in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Management.

Hon. Rene CruzHon. Rene Cruz, a 1995 alumnus, was appointed Associate Judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit of Illinois on November 26, 2012. Cruz was selected for the judgeship from a pool of 36 candidates after 17 years of practicing law in Aurora, Illinois. Cruz most recently practiced with the firm of Cruz & Gil, where he was a founder and partner. Cruz has served as past president and legal counsel for the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, member of the Aurora Hispanic Heritage Board-Business Roundtable, and member of the Rasmussen College Advisory Board. In 2010, Cruz was named Alumnus of the Year by the NIU Law Alumni Council for his exceptional career achievement, devotion to the public good, and dedication to the College of Law. Prior to receiving his J.D. from NIU Law, Cruz received his bachelor’s degree from The Citadel Military College in South Carolina.

Hon. Timothy J. Cusack, a 1989 alumnus, was appointed Associate Circuit Judge in the Tenth Judicial District of Illinois on January 16, 2013 by Chief Judge Michael E. Brandt. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Cusack was a longtime public defender and worked for numerous offices over the past 24 years. He began his legal career with the Peoria County State's Attorney's Office before moving into civil practice with the firm of Cusack & Fleming in 1991. Cusack served part-time in the Felony Division of the Tazewell County Public Defender's Office from 1996-1998. Afterwards, he joined the Peoria County Public Defender's Office, and in 2008 became First Assistant Public Defender. Cusack is a Peoria native who received his undergraduate degree in 1984 from Marquette University.

Hon. Chrystel L. GavlinHon. Chrystel L. Gavlin, a 1996 alumna, was appointed Associate Judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit of Illinois on November 26, 2012. Gavlin had been working in her own practice at the law offices of Chrystel L. Gavlin, P.C. for ten years at the time of her appointment. Prior to entering private practice, Gavlin worked as a prosecutor, first in the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office and then later in the Will County District Attorney's Office. During her time at the Will County State's Attorney's Office, Gavlin also served as Supervisor of the Domestic Violence Unit. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois in addition to her J.D. from NIU Law.


Hon. Ben RoeHon. John Benjamin “Ben” Roe IV, a 2000 alumnus, was appointed to the 15th Judicial Circuit on November 8, 2012, and the appointment will be effective as of January 7, 2013. Roe most recently served as Ogle County State's Attorney, having been initially elected in 2004. Prior to being elected state's attorney, Roe worked as an assistant state's attorney in Carroll County, a Juvenile Probation officer at Focus House and in the Ogle County Sheriff's Department. As Ogle County State's Attorney, Roe led the creation and expansion of an adult drug court, juvenile drug court (set to open in 2013), a domestic violence response system, and juvenile justice diversion and detention alternative programming. For his outstanding and groundbreaking work as state’s attorney, Roe received the 2012 Northern Illinois University Alumni Association Outstanding Alumni for the College of Law Award. In addition to his J.D. from the College of Law, Roe holds a bachelor's degree in government from Centre College.

Hon. Bradley WallerHon. Bradley J. Waller, a 1988 alumnus, was appointed as an Associate Judge in the new 23rd Judicial Circuit of Illinois (formed in December 2012 to cover Kendall and DeKalb counties). Waller was sworn in on January 4, 2013 and will serve Kendall County. Waller possesses a 24-year career in legal practice. Most recently he worked for the firm of Klein, Stoddard, Buck, Waller & Lewis, LLC in Sycamore, IL. He focused his practice in the areas of bankruptcy, creditor’s rights and commercial transactions law, in addition to numerous corporate transactions cases. Waller is a member of the Illinois State and American Bar Associations. In 1992, he served as a Trustee in Chapter Seven Bankruptcy for the Northern District of Illinois. He has also received the American Jurisprudence Award in Estate Planning. Waller is a “double Huskie,” having received his bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University in 1985.


For more information, contact:
Melody Mitchell
Alumni Events & Public Relations
(815) 753-9655 or