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Justice Harrison

Monday, Apr 29, 2013

* Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison passed away last week. This is his career defining quote

“People often ask how I see my role as a judge. It is to protect ordinary citizens against wrongdoing by the government, large corporations and powerful individuals.”

* Here’s another one

In a 2002 Supreme Court news release announcing his retirement, Harrison said his small-town upbringing in Collinsville instilled within him a philosophy that “the reason for our existence is to help other people.”

* And he championed the end of the death penalty

One of the more well-known dissents Harrison delivered came in November 1998, when he wrote that the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional because “the execution of an innocent person is inevitable.”

About three months later, according to the court’s 2002 release, Death Row inmate Anthony Porter was exonerated and released after someone else admitted to the murders that put him behind bars.

“There are some who say Chief Justice Harrison was the first to call for a stop to executions in Illinois,” the court’s 2002 release states.

Not even a year after Harrison issued a public statement in 1999 that said the governor had the constitutional power to stop executions, the release notes that former Gov. Ryan issued a moratorium on the state’s death penalty.

* Where to give

Memorials may be made to St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 111 O’Fallon Troy Road, O’Fallon, IL, 62269, or the Justinian Society of Lawyers Scholarship Fund, 734 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL, 60610.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

7 Comments
  1. - D P Gumby - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 2:06 pm:

    Justice Harrison was an outstanding jurist and human being. He was never subject to “robe-itis”. He was unfortunately linked by the media w/ Justice Heiple during his troubles because they had the misfortune to resemble each other. Those quotes really demonstrate how down-to-earth he was.


  2. - Raising Kane - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 2:07 pm:

    For the History buffs: Wasn’t it Justice Harrison that voted against the Dem map in 1990? I am getting old and I could be wrong but I thought he sided with the Repubs paving way for the GOP Senate majority and the fleeeting House majority as well.


  3. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 2:13 pm:

    –“People often ask how I see my role as a judge. It is to protect ordinary citizens against wrongdoing by the government, large corporations and powerful individuals.”–

    Well said, well done.

    In the high crime times of the 90s, during the Crack Wars, it took a lot of guts for an elected judge - especially a white dude from the Metro East - to call out the moral bankruptcy of Illinois’ death penalty.

    Like Studs said, Illinois is like Janus: one face is Bill Thompson, one face is Jane Addams. How we muddle through between the sinners and saints is the trick.


  4. - Harry - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 2:57 pm:

    Call me old fashioned, but isn’t a judge supposed to apply the law fairly and impartially?


  5. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 5:27 pm:

    ===isn’t a judge supposed to apply the law fairly and impartially? ===

    That’s all in the eye of the beholder. Everybody has their own definition of fair. And only robots are impartial.

    US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once said his philosophy was the people over the government and the government over the big corporations.

    Way too often, this country has been the exact opposite.


  6. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 6:23 pm:

    Obviously a dedicated Jurist who did his best to apply the law of the land fairly, and yet, as anyone who has ever studied Jurisprudence or practiced it will tell you, affECTed in that interpretation and application to some degree as shaped by his own judicial philosophy and practical life experiences–these are just realities and really shouldn’t come across as shocking.

    Why is it so clear so often which Nominees for High Court positions, and eventual Justices, are coined, at least in general terms, as “Conservative,” “Liberal,” or “Moderate?” Based on their life views and previous Opinions and/or public commentary about a variety of issues they are known and vetted, and once on the Bench often continue with the same bent, or may modify their approach to certain issues, but over time it usually becomes quite clear where each, individual Justice stands on certain matters or is likely to stand (with notable exceptions from time to time). Justice Harrison was no different.

    I, for one, am thankful for his service to the People of Illinois in carrying out well his duties in a position of such enormous responsibility–may he rest in peace eternally in the good Lord’s care.


  7. - Raymond - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 8:41 pm:

    === Wasn’t it Justice Harrison that voted against the Dem map in 1990? ===

    No, though Harrison apparently admonished the other Democrat for defecting. Ann Lousin included that detaial in her book on the state Constitution.


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