Mike Nerheim

Mike Nerheim

Lake County Circuit Judge

Extensive law and justice experience and deep family roots. 

Judge Mike Nerheim serves as a Lake County Circuit Judge in the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois. He was unanimously appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to the position of Circuit Court Judge and officially sworn in on February 1, 2021. 

Judge Nerheim is currently assigned to the Family Division of the 19th Judicial Circuit Court. He was appointed by the Chief Judge to be Presiding Judge of the Family Division on October 13, 2021. 

Prior to becoming judge, Mike was chosen by the voters and served two terms as Lake County State’s Attorney from 2012-2020. He is recognized and respected nationally for his bold leadership as a prosecutor and innovative programs to seek justice and save lives. As State’s Attorney, Mike redefined the role of prosecutor to begin before arrest. His leadership on fighting the opioid epidemic and programs to help people with substance use disorder and mental health with treatment not arrest, and alternative prosecution programs designed to break the cycle of crime, have been heralded as the future of modern justice.

He oversaw an office of 140 attorneys, investigators, victim coordinators, paralegals, and support staff, plus two certified comfort dogs, one electronic detection dog, and corps of volunteers. Upon assuming office in December 2012, State’s Attorney Nerheim worked to make the office more efficient, effective and transparent, while ensuring justice and fairness for all, and to right past wrongs. Mike implemented swift and bold initiatives, including the creation of a first-of-its kind Case Review Panel consisting of diverse volunteer legal professionals, some from outside of Lake County, with a wide range of experience to put an end to wrongful convictions.

To tackle the emerging opioid/heroin epidemic, Mike developed a comprehensive prevention strategy and co-founded the Lake County Opioid Initiative (LCOI) considered a national model due to its revolutionary programs. To date, hundreds of lives have been saved and many hundreds more connected to treatment through the groundbreaking “A Way Out” program. Through his leadership, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office became regionally and nationally recognized for redefining how seeking justice, including saving lives, protecting children, and creating innovative programs, goes far beyond conventional law enforcement and prosecution. He was twice named State’s Attorney of the Year by the Illinois State Crime Commission (2017 and 2014).

Mike is an experienced prosecutor and former defense attorney with more than 20 years of experience and perspective on both sides of the law. His in-depth experience includes not only criminal law but also areas of complex civil litigation and municipal law. As a private practitioner, Mike was appointed by the courts to investigate post-conviction issues and has represented indigent defendants.

Mike began his legal career in 1999 as an Assistant State’s Attorney. He has extensive experience working in all criminal divisions of the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, handling every type of case including traffic, misdemeanor, domestic violence, criminal sexual assault, drug trafficking, gang-related crimes, crimes against children and the elderly, official misconduct, and murder.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, and earned his Juris Doctor, Cum Laude, from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Judge Nerheim is a member of the Illinois Judges Association and the Lake County Bar Association. He is a lifelong resident of Lake County where he and his wife Andraea are raising their three children.

Mike is nationally recognized for his leadership, bold initiatives and innovative programs. He didn’t just put an end to wrongful convictions, he led new community-wide treatment and alternative prosecution initiatives to save lives and prevent recurrences of crimes.

Mike Nerheim addressing the opioid crisis

Awards & Honors.

Mike’s accomplishments are evident in the long list of awards he’s received.

Here are just some of the most recent:

  • 2021 Joyce Fitzgerald Award/A Safe Place – Lake County Crisis Center
  • 2021 Peter A. Bensinger Lifetime Achievement Award/LEAD: Linking Efforts Against Drugs
  • 2020 Champion for Kids Award/Fight Crime: Invest in Kids
  • 2020 Harm Reduction Award/GPF Foundation
  • 2019 LCOI Service Award/Lake County Opioid Initiative
  • 2019 Friend of the Organization Award/Lake County Chiefs of Police Association
  • 2018 Distinguished Partner of the Year/UBNI
  • 2017 State’s Attorney of the Year/Illinois State Crime Commission
  • 2016 Judge Robert S. Smith, Jr. Humanitarian Award/Justinian Society and Red Mass Committee
  • 2016 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award/Boy Scouts of America
  • 2016 Law Enforcement Innovation Award/Lake County Municipal League
  • 2016 Community Impact Award/Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center
  • 2015 Justinian of the Year/Coalition to Reduce Recidivism
  • 2015 Executive Director’s Award/Lake County Juvenile Officer’s Association
  • 2014 State’s Attorney of the Year/Illinois State Crime Commission
  • 2014 Frederic Milton Thrasher Award for outstanding leadership in gang prosecution/National Gang Crime Research Center
  • 2014 Moxie Award for supporting sexual assault victims and justice through the criminal justice system/Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA)
  • 2014 Community Leadership Award/Overdose Awareness Day Planning Committee
  • 2013 Home for the Holidays Award for his dedicated service and commitment to the Eddie Washington Center and Staben House/Waukegan Township
  • 2013 Person of the Year/United Hellenic Voters of America


Community Leadership.

Mike is extensively involved in the Lake County community.

He is the Co-Chair of the 19th  Judicial Circuit’s Community Outreach Committee and the Chair of the Crime Victims’ Services Fund.

Mike serves on the Board of Directors of the Lake County Bar Foundation, GPF Foundation, Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, Northeast Illinois Council Boy Scouts of America, and Former Inmates Striving Together (F.I.S.T.). He is a Board Member, Founder and Past Chair of the Lake County Opioid Initiative (LCOI).

Mike serves as the Judge Advocate, Lake County Council of the Navy League of the United States and served for more than 10 years as a Teen Court Judge in Warren Township.

Mike is the former Chair of the Lake County Domestic Violence Council, the Lake County Sexual Assault Council, and the Lake County Juvenile Justice Council (2012-2020). He was appointed as Co-Chairman of the Suburban Anti-Heroin Task Force and Co-Chaired the Executive Committee for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois.

In December 2018, he was elected by his colleagues in the Second Judicial District to serve on the Board of Governors of the Illinois Office of State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and was elected by members statewide to serve on the Executive Committee of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association.

He served on the Board of Directors of Arden Shore Child and Family Services and United Way of Lake County. He also served on the College of Lake County Criminal Justice advisory board and the advisory boards for Lake County Crime Stoppers and Staben House.

Mike is a former member of the National Commission on Forensic Science Sub-Committee on Human Factors in Washington, D.C., the Illinois Juvenile Justice Reform Commission, the Illinois Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission, the Lake County After School Coalition, and the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force.

Mike has hosted and participated in numerous educational and public safety forums across Lake County. He has been frequently called upon to lecture nationally on a variety of criminal justice issues, including gangs, conviction integrity, and the opioid epidemic. He was on faculty at Columbia College of Missouri where he taught “The Laws of Evidence,” “Ethics in Law Enforcement” and “Victims in the Criminal Justice System.”