CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas is retiring at the end of February, after nearly 20 years on the bench of the state’s highest court, and will be returning to private practice with a prominent Chicago law firm.

Thomas, 67, was first elected as an Illinois Supreme Court Justice in December 2000, and served as the court’s chief justice for three years from September 2005 to September 2008. Before joining the state’s highest court, he was an appellate court judge for six years, and a DuPage County circuit judge for six years.

His retirement will be effective Feb. 29.

“It has been a great honor and privilege to have served on the Illinois Supreme Court as well as on the appellate and circuit courts over the past 32 years,” Thomas said in a statement Monday morning. “While I will miss the collegial atmosphere with my colleagues on the court, I am ready to return to the practice of law and help clients achieve justice.”

He will join the Power Rogers law personal injury law firm in Chicago, where he will practice law with his son, Jonathan. Power Rogers represented Justice Thomas in a successful 2006 defamation lawsuit against the Kane County Chronicle.

Thomas, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, was also a place kicker for the Fighting Irish for three seasons, kicking the winning field goal against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, to win the national championship. He was an Academic All-American in 1974.

Notre Dame kicker Bob Thomas puts his best toe forward on a 19-yard field goal to give the Irish a 24-23 upset victory in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama in New Orleans, Jan. 1, 1973. Holding is Brian Doherty. (AP Photo/JW)

He was also a Chicago Bears kicker for 10 seasons during two stints in the 1970s and 1980s. While still playing for the Bears, Thomas attended Loyola University Law School, obtaining his law degree in 1981. Thomas also was a kicker for the Detroit Lions, the San Diego Chargers, and the New York Giants – also practicing law with several firms during that time, before becoming a DuPage County judge in 1988.

“The Lord has truly blessed me. Starting with my fantastic wife, Maggie, three great kids, Brendan, Jonathan and Jessica, and eight soon to be nine grandchildren. With a football career that included a National Championship at Notre Dame and 10 years with the Chicago Bears,” Thomas said. “With the tremendous honor and privilege of serving as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. And now, the opportunity to practice law at Power and Rogers with my son, Jonathan, alongside the best trial lawyer in the country, my close friend, Joe Power. I have been truly blessed.”

The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Illinois Appellate Justice Michael J. Burke to fill the remainder of Thomas’ term, from March 1 through Dec. 5, 2022.

Burke has been an appellate judge in the Second District in Elgin since 2008.