IN MEMORIAM: Dawn Clark Netsch, 1926 - 2013

Judicature, March/April 2013 | Go to article overview

IN MEMORIAM: Dawn Clark Netsch, 1926 - 2013


The American Judicature Society mourns the loss of Dawn Clark Netsch, past Chair of the AJS Board of Directors. Netsch passed away at her Chicago home on March 5 at the age of 86. For more than four decades, she gave generously of her time and unparalleled talents to advance the mission and work of AJS. At various points in her career of service to AJS, she chaired the Program Committee and the Advisory Committee to the Hunter Center for Judicial Selection. In 2009, she was named a Distinguished Lifetime Director of the Society, joining Dwight D. Opperman as the only other recipient of this honor.

As a Delegate to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, Illinois State Senator from 1972-1990, and candidate for Governor of Illinois in 1994, Netsch was a tireless, incorruptible advocate for ethics and transparency in government and equal justice under law for all. She was a trailblazing figure in the law and politics of Illinois and the nation, finishing first in her class at Northwestern Law School in 1952 and becoming the first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois - Comptroller in 1990. She became the first female faculty member at Northwestern Law School in 1965 and went on to mentor countless students and junior faculty, lead efforts to open the legal profession to all Americans, and co-author a definitive text on state and local government law. She was an early and consistent supporter of equal rights for LGBT Americans, and was heartened by the tremendous strides made in recent years. Throughout her career, she championed ethics and professionalism in the judiciary and worked to reduce political and special interest group influences on the courts by promoting merit selection of judges.

Netsch remained active in political reforms until her final days. She co-chaired an ethics task force appointed by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and served on a task force to monitor a new Illinois campaign finance law that she championed as a board member of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Netsch remained active in the work of AJS, attending the 2012 Annual Meeting in Chicago and leading discussions on opportunities for collaborative programming and future judicial reform initiatives.

In January 2013, Netsch announced that she had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Displaying her trademark wry sense of humor, the long-time Chicago White Sox fan joked about being saddled with a disease named after a member of the rival New York Yankees.

Dawn Clark Netsch embodied all that public service should be. She was a clear-eyed idealist who valued common-sense solutions and compromise over partisanship. To her friends and colleagues in the American Judicature Society, she was a source of inspiration and wisdom. …

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IN MEMORIAM: Dawn Clark Netsch, 1926 - 2013
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