Retired U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur, who handled some of the most high-profile court cases in Chicago during 37 years on the bench, including a key school-desegregation case and early litigation on police torture, has died.
Judge Shadur, a longtime Glencoe resident, died Sunday night at JourneyCare hospice in Glenview. He was 93.
Announcing his death, his daughter Beth called him “my hero, my rock and such a wonderful man.” On Facebook, she wrote, “I am profoundly saddened but will always be so proud to have had not only a father beyond compare, but a man of honor and service to so many in this country.”
Among his cases, Judge Shadur:
• Beginning in the early 1980s began a years-long process of monitoring a controversial desegregation plan worked out between the Justice Department and the Chicago Board of Education.
• In 2008 upheld the city’s 1982 handgun ban.
• Issued a groundbreaking order in 2002 requiring access to lawyers for witnesses being questioned at police stations. In a scathing, 41-page ruling, he found the police repeatedly had denied attorneys access to witnesses — even though they were legally free to go.
• Sentenced con artist Richard Bailey, 66, in 1995 to 30 years in prison for fraud and racketeering after hearing evidence that Bailey also had solicited the 1977 murder of candy heiress Helen Brach.
• Said nearly 20 years ago in an early case involving allegations of torture by former Cmdr. Jon Burge and Chicago Police Department detectives working for him: “It is now common knowledge that in the early to mid-1980s, Jon Burge and many officers working under him regularly engaged in the physical abuse and torture of prisoners to extract confessions.” Internal police accounts, lawsuits and appeals showed “beatings and other means of torture occurred as an established practice, not just on an isolated basis,” the judge said.
When Judge Shadur retired in September, Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo said he’d authored “over 11,000 district court opinions, many of which directly impacted the rights of thousands of individuals.”
Castillo said Tuesday those were “just a small reflection of his dedication to the rule of law,” saying he “has mentored a number of judges throughout his career, including me. Judge Shadur will be remembered for his passion — his passion for his wife and his family, the law and the Northern District of Illinois.”
“He was the first person to be called if a judge in this building ever had a legal or procedural question,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan, a former clerk for Judge Shadur.
Even when hospitalized in 2014, Judge Shadur remained sharp of mind, according to his daughter. After repeatedly being asked his name and birthday, “He finally told a nurse, ‘If you really want to check someone’s memory, you should ask him to recite digits of Pi,’ ” his daughter wrote, “and then [he] recites the first 20 digits.”
A native of St. Paul, Minn., he finished high school in Milwaukee at 15. Three years later, he got his bachelor’s degree in math and physics from the University of Chicago, then received his law degree there in 1949.
In World War II, he was a radar officer in the Navy and survived a kamikaze attack in the Pacific, according to relatives.
Judge Shadur was nominated to the federal judiciary by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 after working for the law firm that that sued the city of Chicago over patronage hiring.
He drew criticism in 2009 when he gave former Chicago Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak probation and a fine instead of prison time for his role in a real estate kickback scheme involving convicted political fixer Stuart Levine. The judge said at the time he was motivated in part by letters attesting to the character of Vrdolyak, who is now set to go to trial in September in another case on charges of tax evasion.
Vrdolyak lawyer Michael Monico said Tuesday of the judge: “He was independent. He was not at all dependent on anyone — the government or anyone.”
As for the Vrdolyak decision, Monico said, “God bless Judge Shadur. He thought that the case deserved probation, and he gave it.”
More recently, Judge Shadur was in the news in 2014 when he withdrew from former Bulls great Michael Jordan’s lawsuit against Dominick’s for using his likeness, saying he’d been the subject of a “groundless and unwarranted personal attack” by Jordan’s lawyers.
The former player’s lawyers had asked the judge to recuse himself, complaining about his insistence that Jordan appear in court and saying he likened Jordan to a “hog” for seeking $2.5 million in damages from the supermarket chain.
In addition to his daughter Beth, Judge Shadur is survived by his wife of 71 years, Eleanor; son Robert, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Congregation Am Shalom in Glencoe.
Contributing: Fran Spielman