Tom Durkin’s peers in Chicago’s legal community showed their high regard for him by presenting the 1964 Leo grad him with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
The ceremony took place at the University Club on Friday, Nov. 22 and recognized Durkin’s uncompromising belief that in the American justice system, all people facing criminal charges are entitled to competent, professional, aggressive legal representation, no matter how heinous their alleged crime.
Durkin has put that belief to the test repeatedly in recent years, working to secure the rights of suspected terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, as well as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the plot, and Adel Daoud, who was 18 when he was charged with attempting to blow up a popular bar/restaurant in downtown Chicago.
“Tom willingly takes cases nobody else wants, but his belief in the sanctity of the law and its fair application is always paramount,” prominent fellow attorney Joseph Ferguson said in introducing Durkin.
Ferguson currently serves as the City of Chicago’s Inspector General. He and Durkin were on opposite sides in several cases as younger lawyers, but the career prosecutor expressed genuine respect for his occasional adversary.
“Tom was a tireless, relentless advocate for any client he ever had, but his commitment to the integrity of the legal process was just as strong,” Ferguson said.
After graduating from Leo, Durkin earned his undergrad degree from Notre Dame in 1968 and his juris doctor from the University of San Francisco in 1971. He began his career as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but switched to criminal defense in the late ’80s and earned a reputation as one of the city’s most tenacious and successful advocates.
Janice Roberts, his wife, is also his law partner at Durkin & Roberts, and Tom thanked Janice for minding the store and freeing him up for involvement with one high-profile case after another.
“Without Roberts, there is no Durkin,” he said.
Durkin also thanked the older attorneys he learned from and the younger ones who worked so hard for him. He closed with a warning to all the attorneys present: Be wary of the government’s attempts to infringe upon civil liberties, be it in the guise of a war on drugs, a war on terrorism or an undeclared war on individual freedoms.
“Resist,” Tom Durkin said, to a standing ovation.