The Honorable Richard J. Elrod (JD ’58) was laid to rest earlier this week. He was a tremendously influential figure in Cook County politics.
In 1968 he was one of the attorneys who advised Mayor Richard J. Daley to let the people protesting the Democratic National Convention camp in Grant Park. Mayor Daley did not heed this advice, with disastrous results. A year later, during the “Days of Rage” protests, Daley ordered Elrod into the streets to make sure the protestor’s civil rights were protected. It is a horrible irony that he was severely injured and ultimately paralyzed as the result of a confrontation with an activist during one of these protests.
Despite the physical challenges resulting from his injury, he ran for Cook County Sheriff in 1970. He was elected and held that office for three terms, from 1970 to 1986. In 1988, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed him to the Cook County Circuit Court, a position he held for 25 years.
His son, Steven M. Elrod (JD ’82) is executive partner at Holland and Knight here in Chicago, and he is also an adjunct faculty member at the Law School, teaching “State and Local Government Law”—the same class, many of you will recall, that was taught by Dawn Clark Netsch (JD ’52) for many years. In 2013, Steve’s teaching was recognized by students, who voted to award him the Adjunct Teaching Award—the same year his son, Daniel J. Elrod (JD ’13), earned his JD from the Law School. Dan is currently an associate at Katten Muchin Rosenman in Chicago.
My colleague, MaryPat Mauro, represented the Law School at the memorial service at Temple Am Shalom in Glencoe. She sent me a note about it, which I am happy to share:
“I was really touched by how much Northwestern Law meant to the Elrod family, and fostered their commitment to public service in the community at large. Steve spoke very eloquently about his father’s life and career. Law was half-jokingly referred to as the family business. Dan’s graduation last May was an important event for all of them. Steve shared family memories, including the years after his father was injured. Initially, the prognosis was terrible and the doctors told the family they did not expect him to live. It’s an extraordinary point of pride for the family that despite this incredible difficulty and permanent disability, it never held the Judge back from things he wanted to accomplish. He also shared a wonderful family story about a trip to Great America: the grandchildren were determined to have their grandfather join them on an “extreme” roller coaster ride. He agreed, and after some effort he was safely strapped in. At the end of the ride, extracting him from the coaster was more complicated. Good-naturedly, rather than making people in line wait longer, Judge Elrod went around again while the park staff figured out how to get him out. Unfortunately, it took more than one more ride to figure it out. Finally, when the coaster was parked and there was enough staff to lift him out, he joked to the people waiting in line: ‘I was fine when I got on this thing.’”
Judge Elrod was a remarkable man and public servant. May he rest in peace.
“Neil brings extraordinary expertise, credentials and experience to our team. He has a passion for public service, is renowned for his conscientiousness and foresight, and I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years.” –President Barack Obama
Yesterday President Obama named Northwestern Law alumnus, Neil Eggleston JD ’78, as his next White House Counsel.
This appointment acknowledges Neil’s vast experience in both the public and private sectors. Most recently, Neil has been a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in the firm’s government, regulatory, and internal investigations practice. No doubt, though, the President is tapping into Neil’s extensive experience representing high-profile cases and public figures by appointing him to this post. During the past 20 years, he has represented the Office of the President, the former White House Chief of Staff, a Secretary of Labor, a Secretary of Transportation, and a U.S. Senator. Perhaps most notably, Neil was an Associate White House counsel for the Clinton administration during the 1990’s and a member of the Iran-Contra Committee in 1987 where he questioned Reagan administration officials in a series of highly publicized public hearings. Earlier in his career, Neil served as a law clerk to former Chief Justice Warren Burger and, during the 1980’s, was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York. Closer to home, Neil has been a member of our Law Board since 2000 where we, too, have been able to call on his wisdom and judgment.
Please join me in congratulating Neil on this important appointment.
Rubin Carter died this morning at age 76. Immortalized in Bob Dylan’s song from the mid-70′s and in a film several years ago in which he was portrayed by Denzel Washington, Rubin was exonerated for a triple murder he didn’t commit. Sadly, this came after many years of incarceration.
When I was dean at the University of San Diego, my wife and I have the great pleasure and honor of meeting and spending time with Rubin. He came to USD at the behest of our colleague, Judge Lee Sarokin, the federal judge who released Carter from prison after overwhelming evidence showed his innocence. Carter, ebullient, sensitive, and at peace, spoke easily and movingly about his experience. For all the years following his release, he campaigned tirelessly on behalf of criminal justice reform, efforts to release the wrongly convicted, and against the death penalty.
His legacy, like the legacy of others wrongfully convicted, endures through their powerful stories and, in the case of Rubin and so many others, through their voices on behalf of justice and against injustice. And, in a concrete way, it endures through the good works of initiatives such as our Center on Wrongful Convictions and other importance advocacy groups.
Last night we orchestrated a surprise for Newton N. Minow, JD ’50. Lured to a reception at Sidley Austin LLP’s Chicago offices (where he is Senior Counsel) under false pretenses, Newt arrived to discover it was in fact a surprise party in his honor—to thank him for his many contributions to American political discourse, to First Amendment jurisprudence, to legal education and practice; and to announce the creation of the Newton N. Minow Professorship at Northwestern Law.
This new named chair was made possible by a remarkable group of people: personal friends, fellow alumni, and Sidley Austin colleagues. Together, they donated gifts totaling $4 million to create an endowment for a new named professorship in his honor. The gifts also establish the Newton N. Minow Debates, which will bring together outside experts, law school faculty, and students to debate important and timely legal topics.
Newt’s contributions to public and civic life in the United States are extraordinary. Appointed by President Kennedy, Newt served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1960s. In 1961 he gave a speech that became famous for his criticism of television as a “vast wasteland.” Not one to merely criticize, Newt set about improving broadcast communications in an astonishing variety of ways. While at the FCC he actively promoted the implementation of communication satellite technology at a time when most people had almost no understanding of that technology. He was instrumental in the creation of the All-Channels Act, legislation passed by Congress in 1961 that made more of the broadcast spectrum available to the public. One result of this was public educational programming, and it’s not much of a stretch to say that without Newt there would be no Big Bird.
In the 1970s he served as chairman and director of the Public Broadcasting Service. In 1976, Newt and two other Northwestern Law grads, Henry Geller, JD ’49, and Richard Wiley, JD ’58, reintroduced televised Presidential debates (an idea that was originally launched in 1960 but had, in the intervening years, fallen on hard political times) and worked with the FCC to change the rules so that these important public information events could be broadcast. Their efforts paid off and the debates began again, starting with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976. Newt even co-chaired the 1976 and 1980 debates. (For an interesting article about the history of these debates, check out “TV Debates: The Heart of the Presidential Race.”)
The Presidential debates have become an important part of the American political process, and they provided the inspiration for the idea to honor his legacy further by creating a permanent debate program here at Northwestern Law.
Newt identified a problem and then worked diligently, systematically, and effectively to address it. This combination of astute analysis and creative problem solving is what makes him such an effective attorney. He is also a friend and mentor to many generations of lawyers. The fact that the endowment is funded by a consortium of Newt’s personal friends and colleagues illustrates the strength of these relationships. I extend my thanks to them, and to Newt, for their many contributions!
Comprehensive notice here.
We will be pleased to honor, this afternoon at a regal ceremony, the three newest holders of endowed chairs at the Law School:
Steve Calabresi to the Barber Chair
Matt Spitzer to the Chapman Chair
David Dana to the Kirkland & Ellis Chair
The great accomplishments of these distinguished teacher-scholars are included in detail on the attached notice, as are the histories of these chairs. Let me just add that it is always a pleasure to acknowledge the accomplishments of our top faculty by selecting them as chair recipients. Moreover, this ceremony also allows us to thank properly those responsible for the extraordinary gifts that make these treasured professorships possible. And, so, to the Barber and Chapman families and to the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, thank you on behalf of a grateful law school!
Amazing denouement to a story that began with a talented, intrepid young Georgean, Horace Ward, who, as an African American, was rejected as a law student at the University of Georgia in the early 1950′s. He persisted with his strong claim of racial discrimination and the dispute ended only when Mr. Ward was successful in seeking admission to Northwestern University School of Law, from which he graduated in 1959.
He continued on to a stellar career as a lawyer, a state senator, and, with President Carter’s appointment, the first African-American federal judge in Georgia. The University of Georgia, of course, become desegregated in later years — surely in no small part due to the efforts of this remarkable man.
This May, U. Georgia will be awarding Judge Ward an honorary doctor of laws. I know all members of the NU Law community will commend UGA on this appropriate, if long overdue, gesture. And, likewise, all will join me in a warm congratulations to the great Judge Ward!
(thanks to Tony Tangora, in our development office, for pointing me to this story).
Earlier this week the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in People v. Davis, deciding that the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama is retroactive in Illinois. The Miller case decided that children under the age of 18 at the time of their offenses could not receive a sentence of life without parole without consideration of their specific circumstances. Now, individuals currently serving mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole in Illinois will have an opportunity to have resentencing hearings. These hearings will allow judges to weigh all of the circumstances in the 80-odd cases that were subject to these mandatory sentences.
An article in today’s edition of the Chicago Tribune focused on the perspective of judges in particular: “Ruling offers hope to some imprisoned as youths: Judges also pleased by end to mandatory life terms for juveniles.” The article highlights the tireless efforts of lawyers in the Children and Family Justice Center to, in the words of Alison Flaum, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Legal Director of the CFJC, “…demonstrate the problems with mandatory, one-size-fits-all sentencing.”
“These are but two of the many examples of the impact of Bluhm’s work in the representation of clients and on justice reform,” Tom Geraghty, Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic (and Northwestern Law alum!) told me earlier today. “Working with others, Bluhm faculty provide important leadership in an impressive array of justice-related activities. Our faculty-led initiatives provide unequaled educational experiences for our students. It is my hope that we will be able to capture and convey what Bluhm faculty are accomplishing while, at the same time, continuing to work collaboratively with the justice community (and with other leaders in clinical education) and modeling the best of professionalism for our students.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
If you are interested in additional information and perspectives on this decision, the Children and Family Justice Center published a recap of the Davis case and its implications on their blog, Youth Matters, and Joshua Tepfer published a thoughtful article about how this relates to his work on innocence cases on the Center on Wrongful Convictions blog.
Thank you to my colleagues for their extraordinary work in this area, and for their important contributions to juvenile justice.