Downs receives Lifetime Achievement Award from NWSBA
Longtime criminal defense attorney Ed Downs has received the Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Lifetime Achievement Award.
The presentation was made in December.
Dave Corbett of NWSBA cited Downs as being among "the top shelf of practitioners, a giant among us. Downs is a familiar sight at 26th and California," Corbett said, referring to the criminal courts building for the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Corbett called the courthouse "sacred ground," adding that it provides a challenging environment for defense attorneys.
"His self-effacing manner belies his greatness," Corbett said. "He is a role model to many. Among brilliant trial lawyers, Ed Downs is top shelf. He's a giant among us."
He has fought for the rights of all, Corbett said of Downs, adding, "I can't think of a more fitting recipient for this honor."
In accepting the award, Downs exhibited the self-effacing manner to which Corbett had referred. Mentioning he had found law school hard, he told attendees, "I'm not that smart." It was a statement with which many would disagree.
He earned degrees from Wright Junior College, Loyola University School of Business and Loyola University Graduate School of Industrial Relations, balancing classwork during many of those years with a job as a letter carrier. In 1965, he earned his law degree from DePaul University. He worked as a Cook County assistant state's attorney, as well as a Cook County assistant public defender, and as chief public defender in McHenry County.
As a public defender, he represented defendants in approximately 40 murder trials. Downs dryly alluded to cases in which defendants had gone to jail, referring to "going to the courthouse and seeing people you haven't seen in a while."
"But you roll with the punches," he said, adding he now has even represented the grandchildren of previous clients.
He attended National-Louis University's National College of Education and has taught at Harper College in Palatine. For a time he was coordinator of the college's Criminal Justice program.
"I've had a great time doing this, a great time teaching at Harper College," he said. "I thank everyone who gave me the opportunity to do this."
Joining Downs at the event were his wife Debra; son Matt, an attorney whose practice is in Batavia, and daughter-in-law Christine, a Kane County assistant state's attorney. He also has two daughters and six grandchildren.