Anything but Boring

Laura Forester '91

Administrative Judge, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

Laura Forester ’91 is an administrative judge at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. She came to that role after years of prosecuting bad actors in the medical field. Laura is often required to decide issues about which there is no case law and, in those cases, has the opportunity to create new case law, thereby influencing Illinois regulation for generations to come.

Laura Forester
LAW '91

“I love conducting hearings. Then I get to take time and write an opinion that’s going to be considered by the professional board,” says Laura Forester ’91. “Few judicial positions have both of those components.”

Forester is one of five administrative judges at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). In the role she oversees cases involving the licenses of professionals in every field except lawyers, teachers, and plumbers.

“As an administrative law judge, all kinds of professions come before me: pharmacists, dentists, real estate agents, appraisers,” she says. “They each are their own animal and have their own terminology and semantics.”

She’s been at the IDFPR for 13 years, with seven years as a prosecutor and six as a judge.

Since her cases deal with professional regulation, often there’s no case law or precedent to turn to, so she has to dive into a profession’s regulations to make a ruling in the public’s interest and that is consistent with other interpretations of professional acts.

“As a prosecutor, for the first time, I had to prosecute a doctor for overprescribing medical cannabis,” she says. “It was a brand-new law, and they were brand-new regulations.”

As a judge, she oversees cases involving all licensed professions, but as a prosecutor, she was Chief of Medical Prosecutions. In that role she was responsible for overseeing all 45,000 licensed doctors in Illinois.

Vladimir Lozovskiy was one of the prosecutors who worked under Forester when she was the chief medical prosecutor.

“She not only had to come and clean up some other stuff—she had to actively take on a huge case load,” he says. “Laura probably had the largest case load outside of me, but I’m only responsible for myself. She was responsible for everybody else, too.”

The two tried cases together for seven years and were honored by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration for their efforts to combat overprescribing of controlled substances. Prior to receiving their certificates of appreciation, their prosecutions resulted in 20 health care professionals receiving discipline for overprescribing.

Forester was also recognized with an Award of Merit from the Federation of State Medical Boards for her work in helping to fight overprescribing.

“When she received the award, she basically said that she was the wrong person, that the reward should go to me,” says Lozovskiy. “It was unexpected and unnecessary, and it just shows her level of selflessness.”

Now that Forester is a judge and Lozovskiy still serves as a prosecutor, their familiarity isn’t always good for him.

“I can’t get away with anything in her court,” he says, laughing. “She knows all my tricks!”

Long before she ran her own courtroom, Forester was a third-year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law with a bad lottery number and a full-time job. She was frantically looking for a course that would satisfy her credit requirements while still allowing her to work. Clinical Professor Richard Kling asked her to join his criminal defense litigation clinic.

A prosecutor at heart, Forester struggled at first with defending people she believed to be guilty. Kling soon taught her the value of a defense attorney.

“He made it so clear that the most important thing a democratic society can do in order to ensure that there isn’t an abuse of power, or the government isn’t taking actions that violate the Constitution is making sure that your government follows its own rules when it deprives someone of their freedom,” she says.

When she wanted to continue on the path to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, Kling was there again to offer a helping hand. He recommended her for a clerkship with Gino DiVito, who was serving as a justice for the Illinois Appellate Court at the time.

During her clerkship she was waiting tables at night and interviewing at prosecutors’ offices across the country. She wanted to stay in Chicago, but couldn’t get an interview at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. DiVito learned that she was on the brink of accepting an offer in Los Angeles and thought it would be a loss for Cook County.

The next day she had an offer from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

“It was because Richard had recommended this intern position with Justice DiVito that I was allowed to demonstrate that I can write and prove that I am worthy of being hired and considered,” she says. “He was the reason that I was able to get my dream job, which was working at the state’s attorney's office as a prosecutor in the criminal division.”

She held that position for 13 years and loved it. Then, in 2004, she moved to the Illinois Court of Claims to be a clerk for the newly appointed judge—now chief judge, Peter Birnbaum ’83. The job would allow her to work part-time from home and be more available for her growing family.

“I’m one of those people that’s fortunate enough to have been able to pursue my career at different times and for different needs,” she says. “I hope that someday I can be an example to my daughters that you can have a family and have a balanced life, but also pursue professionally what you’re passionate about.”

The clerkship opened up new areas of the law for Forester.

She spent seven years at the Court of Claims before she was ready to return to full-time work and started at the IDFPR, where she’s been ever since.

“I was able to balance my passion for being a lawyer and being in the legal profession with trying to be a good mother. My family has always supported me in that,” Forester says. “That gets me up in the morning, to make sure that I set a good example for them and that I do the best job I can for them as a role model, as I do as a judge.”

More Stories