Justice Cunningham grew up in a tight-knit working class immigrant family that deeply valued education and community service. Her mother was from Panama and her father was from the Cayman Islands. She attended the City University of New York where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree and John Marshall Law School in Chicago where she earned a law degree in 1982.
Over the course of her legal career, Justice Cunningham served as Judicial Clerk to Illinois Appellate Justice Glenn Johnson, Associate General Counsel for Loyola University of Chicago and Loyola University Health System, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for the Northwestern Memorial System, which includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Foundation, and as a litigator with the law firm of French, Rogers, Kezelis & Kominiarek. She also served as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge where she had a diverse assignment including jury trials.
Justice Cunningham was elected President of the Chicago Bar Association (2004-05), where she became the first African American Woman to lead the nation’s largest municipal Bar Association. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Bar Foundation, the Center for Conflict Resolution, the Center for Disability and Elder Law, and the Chicago Legal Clinic.
She has authored professional publications and is a member of a number of professional and civic associations, including the American Bar Association, American Law Institute, Chicago Bar Association, Cook County Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. She has been recognized for her volunteer service to several community and civic organizations including Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Chicago Association for the Education of Young Children and the March of Dimes. She received a honorary doctorate of humane letters from Dominican University. She is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, American Legal Institute and the Chicago Network. She and her family live in the diverse 46th Ward of Chicago.