Former Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison dies at 81

News-DemocratApril 26, 2013 

Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison of Caseyville died Thursday afternoon at a St. Louis hospital. He was 81.

Harrison was elected to the Supreme Court in 1992. He was selected to serve as chief justice of the court for a three-year term, beginning in January 2000. He retired from judicial service in September 2002.

Before serving on the Supreme Court, Harrison served on the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon. He was appointed to the appeals court in 1979 by the state Supreme Court. He was elected in 1980 and retained by the voters in 1990 as an appellate judge.

Prior to his tenure as an appellate judge, he was a circuit judge in Madison County. In 1973, he was appointed circuit judge by the Illinois Supreme Court and was elected to that position in 1974. He served two terms as chief judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit, which covers Madison and Bond counties.

During his tenure as chief justice of the Supreme Court, he advocated against the death penalty. In April, 2000, he appeared on the television news show "60 Minutes" with Mike Wallace to discuss the Illinois death penalty. He also appeared in the movie "Too Flawed to Fix: The Illinois Death Penalty Experience."

He wrote in a dissenting opinion in a late-1990s death penalty case that "the execution of an inocent person is inevitable," and that "despite the courts' efforts to fashion a death penalty scheme that is just, fair and reliable, the system is not working."

When asked once how he saw his role, he said, "It is to protect ordinary citizens against wrongdoing by the government, large corporations and powerful individuals."

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis said Harrison "was not only a legal scholar, but one of the most gracious people I have ever had the privilege to know. Our bench was blessed to have him as a judge, and our district was further blessed to have his illustrious service on the Illinois Supreme Court."

Harrison was a member of the American Bar Association, Illinois Bar Association, Metropolitan Bar Association of St. Louis, Tri-City Bar Association, Madison County Bar Association, Justinian Society of Lawyers (the Italian-American Bar Association), and the Illinois Judges Association. He served as president of the Madison County Bar Association and was a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Bar Association.

He was the recipient of the Justinian Society of Lawyers Award of Excellence. Later the Justinian Society named an award in his honor (the Moses W. Harrison Award), which is given to an outstanding lawyer each year at their Installation Dinner in Chicago.

Harrison also was the recipient of the Illinois Bar Association Access to Justice Award (given to those who have done outstanding pro bono work), the Washington University School of Law Distinguished Alumni Award, the David Lee Hoskins Jr. Humanitarian Award, and the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People Humanitarian Award. Although Harrison was offered many other awards, he chose to accept only those few.

Harrison was former senior warden of Christ Episcopal Church of Collinsville and a member of the Vestry. At the time of his death, he was a member of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in O'Fallon.

He served as vice president and board member of the First Bank of Maryville.He also was a board member and secretary of the Maryville Colonial Nursing Home Inc. He was a member of the board of the Collinsville Lions Club and a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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.

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