Northwestern University, J.D. (1957)
University of Chicago, B.A. (1953)

Benjamin Mackoff served as a Cook County Judge for 23 years, including ten years as Chief Presiding Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court Domestic Relations Division. He now dedicates his practice to serving as a neutral mediator for divorcing couples that are open to alternative forms of dispute resolution.

A trained mediator, Benjamin educates his clients about the mediation process, listens carefully to their concerns and goals, and seeks out areas that are ripe for agreement. He has found that once clients can agree on the first couple of issues, their confidence in the process increases and they are willing to discuss additional issues. Throughout the mediation process, Benjamin draws on the knowledge and experience he gained from his years on the bench. As a result, he has an innate sense of how a judge would likely rule in any given situation and can guide his clients toward an equitable resolution.

Benjamin is responsible for many of the programs currently offered to divorcing couples and their families. When he was a judge in the Law Division of the Cook County Court, he established the first pre-trial mediation program, which significantly decreased the amount of time it took to bring cases to a final resolution. When he was a Judge in the Domestic Relations Division of the Cook County Court, he dramatically increased the number of mediators who worked with divorcing couples with children, bringing stability and predictability to hundreds of families. He also implemented the “Focus on Children’ educational program for divorcing parents.

  • 10 Outstanding Young Men in Chicago Award, Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1967)
  • Center for Public Resources Legal Programs Award (1983)
  • Board of Governors Award, Illinois State Bar Association (1988)
  • Citation from Chicago Crime Commission Commendation from U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for first Chicago gangland slaying conviction in 40 y (1960)
  • Tom C. Clark Award, National Conference of Metropolitan Courts (1991)
  • Illinois Task Force on Child Support Appreciation Award (1992)
  • John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Award Nominee, Illinois State Bar Association (1999)
  • Pro Bono Service Award Nominee, Chicago Bar Association (1998)
  • Leading Lawyers Network, ADR Law (2005-2017)
  • Illinois Super Lawyer (2005-2006, 2017-2022)
  • Best Lawyers in America (2017-2020)
  • Illinois (1958)
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (1962)
  • U.S. Supreme Court (1964)
  • Hopi Tribal Court (1982)
  • U.S. Court of Military Appeals (1988)
  • U.S. Court of the Armed Forces (1995)


  • Chicago Bar Association Circuit Court Operations Committee
  • Chicago Bar Association Circuit Court Rules Committee
  • Chicago Bar Association Civil Practice Committee
  • Chicago Bar Association Law Day Committee
  • Chicago Bar Association Matrimonial Law Committee
  • Chicago Bar Association Paralegal Committee
  • Chicago Bar Association Parenting Education Project
  • Chicago Bar Association Special Commission on the Administration of Criminal Justice in Cook County (1971-1975)
  • Chicago Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer Project
  • Illinois Conference of Chief Judges Child Support Enforcement Advisory Committee (1988-1995)
  • Illinois Family Support Association (1987-1995)
  • Illinois Judges Association Board of Directors (1993-1995)
  • Illinois Judges Association Special Task Force on Alternative Dispute Resolution (1991-1995)
  • Chair, Domestic Relations Subcommittee,  Illinois Judicial Conference Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinating Committee (1990-1993)
  • Illinois State Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Section
  • Illinois State Bar Association Committee on Traffic Law and the Courts
  • Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Section
  • Illinois State Bar Association Judicial Administration Committee
  • Illinois State Bar Association Participant, Allerton House Conference on the Providing of Low-Cost Legal Services
  • American Bar Association Committee on the Status of Judicial and Quasi-Judicial Personnel
  • American Bar Association Convention Hospitality Committee (1988)
  • American Bar Association Family Law Section
  • American Bar Association Judicial Administration Section
  • Illinois Delegate,  American Judges Association (1995-1998)
  • Academy of Family Mediators
  • American Judicature Society Committee on the Evaluation of Court Delay-Reduction Programs Advisory Committee (1978-1981)
  • National Center for State Courts Judicial Resources Project Advisory Committee (1993-1995)
  • Chair, Family Law Task Force,  Center for Analysis of Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems Advisory Panel (1998)
  • Illinois Dangerous Drugs Commission Advisory Council (1975-1981)
  • Board of Directors,  Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (1987-1993)
  • Decalogue Society of Lawyers
  • Member Board of Directors,  Mediation Council of Illinois (1996)
  • National Association of Trial Court Administrators (1966-1995 (Board of Directors, 1966-1973; President, 1970-1971))
  • National Conference of Metropolitan Courts
  • National Judicial College Long Range Planning Committee (1988-1990)
  • Northwestern University Law School Short Course Advisory Committee (1982-1996)
  • Roosevelt University Public Administration Advisory Council (1982-1992)
  • Uniform Sentencing Guidelines National Research Project Steering and Policy Committee, State University of New York (1977-1978)


  • Domestic Violence: An International Problem [paper], 1st World Congress on Family Law and the Rights of Children, Sydney, Australia (July 1993)
  • “Team Management of Domestic Relations Cases” Annual Meeting of Family Court of Australia, Sydney, Australia (July 1993)
  • Changes in the Domestic Relations Division, Chicago Bar Record (February 1988)
  • No Fault and the Courts, John Marshall Journal of Practice and Procedure, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1972)
  • Chicago 1968 - A Response, Denver Law Journal, Vol. 46 (January 1969)
  • Jury Selection for the Seventies, Judicature, Vol. 55, No. 3 (1971)
  • Mediation and Family Law, Ch. 13 [contributing author], Alternative Dispute Resolution, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education Practice Handbook (2001)

Articles and Publications

Having been a trial attorney and trial judge, Benjamin is in a unique position to teach other attorneys effective courtroom skills. He has taught at local law schools and national seminars in trial advocacy, alternate dispute resolution and family law. He has been a consultant to the legislature, the courts, and various legal organizations. He was the Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Study Committee on Mediation in Domestic Relations Cases and Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Task Force on the Family, for which he received the prestigious Board of Governors’ Award. He has served as a Board Member of the Mediation Council of Illinois and received the Council’s Service Award in 2012.  Recently, Benjamin was appointed by the Illinois legislature to the Illinois Family Law Study Committee to recommend changes to the Family Law statutes. He was also appointed by Presiding Judge Grace Dickler to the Domestic Violence Court Study Committee and the Alternate Dispute Resolution Exploratory Committee.

Leadership Roles

  • Chicago Legal Aid Bureau (Director, Mediation Services, 1996)
  • Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Administrative Director, 1964-1973)
  • Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Certified Child's Representative, 2001)
  • Cook County (Assistant State's Attorney, 1958-1964)
  • Davis, Dietch & Ryan (Law Clerk, 1956-1958)
  • Domestic Violence Court Study Committee (Member, 2008 – Present)
  • Illinois General Assembly Judicial Advisory Council (Liaison, 1964-1966)
  • Illinois Family Law Study Commission (Member, 2008 – Present)
  • Illinois Supreme Court Study Committee on Mediation in Child Custody, Support and Visitation Disputes (Chair, 1988-1992)
  • John Marshall Law School (Adjunct Professor of Alternatives in Dispute Resolution, 1999)
  • Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago Family Law Mediation Project (1999)
  • National Institute of Trial Advocacy, Chicago, IL and Boulder, CO (Instructor of Trial Technique, 1979-1986)
  • Organizing Conference of the National Center for State Courts (Delegate, 1970)
  • Roosevelt University Lawyer Assistant Program (Instructor of Civil Practice, 1976-1980)
  • Trial Court Administration, Institute for Court Management, Denver, CO (Instructor, 1970-1975)


  • Northwestern University Law Review
  • Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science


  • Circuit Court of Cook County, 1973-1995
  • Domestic Relations Division Presiding Judge, 1986-1995
  • Chancery Division Chancellor, 1985-1986
  • Pre-trial Mediation Section, Law Division Supervising Judge, 1982-1985
  • Law Jury Cases, First Municipal District Supervising Judge, 1977-1982
  • Criminal Division Trial Judge, 1973-1977


  • Pvt., 131st Inf. Div., Ill. Nat. Guard (U.S. Army, ACDUTRA), 1957-1958