The Journal of The DuPage County Bar Association

Back Issues > Vol. 12 (1999-00)

The Misplaced Chief Judge but not Forgotten!
Honorable Edwin L. Douglas
By Hon. Carey B. Pierce

Note from the Special Guest Editor of the September Brief, Hon. Kenneth L. Popejoy:

When I researched my article entitled "History of the Chief Judges of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit", printed in the September, 1999 DuPage County Bar Association Brief, I went through twenty years of official Annual Reports of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, as well as all records and files contained therein for those years. I also interviewed 20-30 people for their input and recollections on the Chief Judges who have led our Circuit. Every one of those Annual Reports had a then current list, of the past Chief Judges. The reports also contained a narrative prepared by the Chief Judge for that respective year. Those Chief Judge reports were a valuable insight into the accomplishments and goals of the each respective Chief Judge.

Yet one Chief Judge was missed! And basically when looking through the county records and all Annual Reports, this gentleman has also been forgotten! It was only upon going into the Chief Judge’s Office, after the publication of the September Bar Brief, and finding over in the corner a plaque with the old keys to the courthouse, that I noted a listing of Chief Judges which included for the year 1980, Chief Judge Edwin L. Douglas. Judge Douglas is not listed on any other records as having been Chief Judge nor is he shown in any Annual Report as having been Chief Judge, but Chief Judge he was! In order to make our History of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit complete I asked the Honorable Cary B. Pierce to prepare an article highlighting his career and his accomplishments. I personally want to give my best wishes to Judge Douglas as well as my greeting that as Chief Judge he has not been misplaced and will not be forgotten!

In the recent bar article describing the history of the Chief Judges of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit the term of the elected Chief Judge Edwin L. Douglas was omitted, with this article, the history of the Chief Judge can be considered complete.

Honorable Edwin L. Douglas is a 1940 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law. He served with distinction during World War II as a special agent in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, 9th Armour Division. The 9th Armour Division was a part of the 3rd Army under the command of General George Patton. One of Judge Douglas’s favorite memories was encountering General Patton in the dead of night during a snowstorm. The Judge was sleeping in the street in Mersch. Luxembourg, when he got up to take a midnight stroll. He reached the corner when out of the night came a jeep traveling at high speed. It came to a screeching halt. General Patton, standing in full view with his pearl handled pistols strapped to his side, hollered, "Hey, Soldier! Where’s the front?" Hoping he was correct, Judge Douglas yelled back, "Right over there!" That was December 16, 1944 and the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.

Honorable Edwin Douglas began his legal career as an investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration. He served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for DuPage County from 1955-1957. In 1957, Douglas accepted the Appointment of DuPage County Public Defender and served in that capacity until 1970. While Public Defender he gained national and international recognition for his advocacy and writings. In 1961, excerpts from his closing statement made during a criminal trial were printed in "the Legal Aid Brief Case" April issue and later requested for reprint by the Journal of the British Academy of Forensic Science. Other published articles include, "Guilty - But of What?" (dealing with pre-trial publicity of young defendants a tragedy and travesty of justice) that appeared in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, volume 33, page 1015; and The Role of Counsel at Sentencing - a Defender’s View, April 1965 issue of The Legal Aid Brief Case, published by National Legal Aid and Defender Association, American Bar Center, Chicago, IL.

Judge Douglas has always been active in the community. His involvement includes Past-Republican Township Chairman for Winfield Township, St. Irene and St. Thomas Churches, Lions Club, Past-President of St. Irene’s School Board and Past-Member of District 200 School Board.

In 1970, Judge Douglas was elected as a Circuit Court Judge for DuPage County. While on the bench, he earned the respect and admiration of his fellow Judges and attorneys for his compassion, knowledge and integrity. Judge Douglas was always encouraging and helping new attorneys in their efforts to learn proper court procedure and the law. Especially while serving as the Presiding Judge in the Chancery Division. His open door policy and thoughtfulness aided both the inexperienced attorney and the seasoned trial lawyer. During his distinguished Judicial Career, which ended after 15 years (retirement 1985), he served in all divisions of the Circuit Court. This included the Domestic Relations, Chancery, Civil and Criminal Divisions. At the time of his retirement he was Presiding in the Chancery Division.

A little known fact, is that Judge Douglas served as an Appellate Court Judge for the 2nd District in the 1970’s. At the recommendation of Justice William Guild, Sr. the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Douglas. As a result of missing the advocacy and action of the trial court, Judge Douglas resigned from the Appellate Court and returned to our 18th Judicial Circuit to resume his duties as a Circuit Court Judge.

According to Judge Douglas’ recollection, after Chief Judge William V. Hopf’s term ended a rivalry began between Judge Robert Nolan and Judge Bruce Fawell to succeed him. As a result, neither candidate was able to get a majority vote, and the Circuit Court Judges unanimously (10 votes) elected Judge Douglas as Chief Judge. Judge Douglas served in this capacity for nearly a year. Judge Douglas fondly recalls being considered the peacemaker and promptly recognized the need for an odd number of Circuit Court Judges to help eliminate a tie situation. Despite the encouragement of the Circuit Court Judges he declined to seek a full term and Judge Bruce Fawell succeeded him as Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court.

Currently, Judge Douglas, at age 85, is enjoying a busy and active retirement in the company of his lovely wife Mildred and their devoted children: Marion, Diane, Jean, Dorothy and their Families.

Hon. Carey B. Pierce is an Associate Judge in DuPage County assigned to the Misdeameanor Division.

DCBA Brief