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home : community : features April 29, 2016

5/21/2010 3:36:00 PM
Shannon Cobe comes home to a place that brings her peace
Judge Shannon M. Cobe
Judge Shannon M. Cobe

Joyce Laabs
Features Editor

Judge Shannon M. Cobe, of Lincoln Hills, Ill., has been planning her retirement on the Lac du Flambeau reservation for the past 10 years.

Now her plans are coming to fruition. She was recently appointed associate judge in the Lac du Flambeau Court, and will work with Judge Gary Smith.

"The forests and lakes are good for your soul," Cobe said. "I see the eagle - the spirit bird - and I am at peace.

"Right now I spend one week a month in Lac du Flambeau, but will eventually move up here full time - depending upon when I find a place to rent or buy."

The second eldest of the six children of the late Al Cobe, who was well known as a golfer and a member of the tribal council; she was raised in Glen Elyn, Ill. However, her summers and holidays were spent on the reservation where she is a tribal member.


"I had earned a Bachelor's Degree in accounting and management from DePaul University, and was working for a large corporation, when I decided to go to law school," Cobe said. I had wanted to be a lawyer since second grade.

"I was able to do it in 1977. I enrolled at The John Marshall Law School under a federal plan to encourage more Native Americans to attend law school. At the time there were fewer than 40 Native American attorneys in the United States.

"I went to school at night while raising one child, Jeff.

With degree in hand, Cobe has practiced family law since 1980.

Family Law

"I like the family law practice, it is my forte. Family law includes divorce, paternity, adoption, custody, and enforcement of child support cases. I also act as guardian ad litum, representing children in probate and divorce cases.

"Probate custody cases are very sad. I try to remain detached and impartial in these cases, and try to determine what is in the child's best interest.

"Children no longer automatically go to their mother in divorce cases. The Tender Years Doctrine which said that children under six go the the mother has been abolished. Now it is determined by the best interest of the child.

"Children under seven are asked their preference. Children are very honest, and if coached only remember what to say for a short time. Then suddenly all spills out."

Community work

Cobe also did a great deal of pro bono work through Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, twice receiving the group's Distinguished Service Award.

In 2006, Cobe was named president of the Illinois Native American Bar Association (INABA), a small group of lawyers who worked on legal and social issues affecting the 70,000 Native Americans throughout the state.

"I was a board member, as well as a community member of the American Indian Center, (AIC), an active community organization that was organized in 1953 by the Chicago Indian Community.

"This was in response to a flood of Native Americans coming to Chicago. It had been named a relocation city under the Indian Relocation Act of the 50s. The Act was a concerted attempt to break up the reservation system. The result was a multi-tribal community that included members of more than 50 tribes searching for a common social and cultural ground."

Once in Chicago, the Native Americans found living in an unfamiliar environment difficult and challenging.

The AIC has changed dramatically over the years as it responded to the needs of the Chicago Indian community, introducing academic, health and social service programs that have become viable, independent agencies in their own right.

It has been the principal cultural resource for Indian Chicago, hosting powwows, potlucks, birthdays, special celebrations, wakes, commemorative dinners and special events.

Back in Lac du Flambeau

"I always returned to Lac du Flambeau to vote, and kept up with tribal affairs" Cobe said. "When I heard they were going to hire an associate judge, I submitted my application to Judge Gary Smith. I was hired and sworn in on Feb. 9th.

"I'm delighted to be back on the reservation. I have always kept in close touch with my father's sister, Josephine Poupart, and my cousins. I keep pictures of them right next to my mother's picture."

Cobe has been kept busy during her time in the reservation court system.

"Judge Smith deals with a wide variety of cases - traffic, probate, natural resources, etc. - there was a gap in the assignment of judges so we are dealing with immediate needs and closing cases.

"We are administering probate tribal cases on 1989 rules and we are working on updating them. The updated rules on court filings, times to re-open or modify orders, continuances, etc. must then be approved by the tribal council.

"We want to provide orderly administrative court duties."

Right now the courts are working out of the tribal center, but come September they will move into their new building on Peace Pipe Drive. It is being built on the same location as the old one.

Cobe will miss her friends and family as well as some of the events a city has to offer, when she makes the permanent move to Lac du Flambeau.

"I have lived in Lincoln Park since 1967 and know I will miss the culture of the city - movies, concerts, ballets, museums, events - but will remain in touch and travel to special events.

"I am pleased to be back on the reservation. I had such joyous times here.

"I am thrilled that as associate judge I will wear late Judge Phyllis White's robe. It has such beautiful beadwork, and Phyllis wore it with such honor.

"It will be a very special moment when I can declare Lac du Flambeau as my residence."

Joyce Laabs can be reached at


Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Article comment by: Randall Wells

April 12, 2014

Nice going, Shannon.
You never told ME in second grade that you wanted to become a lawyer.

Hawthorne School alumnus,
Glen Ellyn, IL

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Article comment by: Sheree Parsons

Judge Shannon,

I am so proud of you! Loved our time in MN sharing time with family visiting the top of the Foshay & Tanger Mall.

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Article comment by: ED PARSONS - cousin


Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010
Article comment by: Janie Parsons-Beverly

Congratulations Shannon Cobe you will bring much honor and dignity to your new role. I was pleased to see your picture and hear of your latest journey.

It seems as though you have filled your life with helping others and educating yourself. I hope you know how respected you are just within our familly. My Dad and Mom always spoke of you with pride.

How wonderful your community will have you in residence. Shannon, you have accomplished so much in your life.

I loved the article and hope we can get together or communicate in the future.

Write to me if you want.

Your robe is beautiful because you are in it, looking just like Aunt Alta, with grace and dignity.

Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010
Article comment by: TIPPI HEALEA - COUSIN

Shannon has always been my friend as well as my cousin. She has always been straight forward, honest and goal oriented. She will make a fine judge. when we lived closer, we used to visit, and since I have moved, and she is moving, i miss her very much. She has gone far in her life and accomplished much. Best of luck, Shannon

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