A longtime appellate court justice known by his colleagues for his deep legal knowledge, magnetic personality and ability to be outspoken, respected and loved at the same time died Wednesday.
Patrick J. Quinn, who joined the First District Appellate Court in 1996 after no judicial experience, was found unresponsive Wednesday morning in his chambers and pronounced dead shortly after at a local hospital, said Justice P. Scott Neville.
His cause of death has not been publicly announced, but no foul play is expected and an autopsy was expected to take place this week. Neville said Quinn’s health was like that of most 60-year-old men and another judge said he underwent a medical procedure last year.
Neville, chairman of the court’s executive committee, said the Quinn’s death was a shock and has left his colleagues saddened by the loss of a judge who not only worked hard on his cases, but was always willing to lend his assistance to them.
Referring to Quinn as a legal scholar and an expert in criminal law, Neville said he first met Quinn in 2005 or 2006 and quickly become “impressed with his knowledge of the law and his ability to find common ground” in disagreements.
“It’s going to be a tremendous loss to the court and to the citizens of the Cook County,” Neville said, adding that Quinn leaves behind a wife and three children.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride agreed. He met Quinn while working on the high court’s Rule Committee, in which Kilbride serves as the court’s liaison and Quinn was a member of for several years and up until his recent death.
“He was a hardworking committee member,” Kilbride said, recalling that Quinn was always prepared, active and engaged in the process.
Quinn, he said, had an unparalleled ability to understand and explain the practical effects of proposed rules. Kilbride said Quinn had a reputation for asking good questions that really got to the crux of the issues before the committee.
But, at the same time, Kilbride said Quinn was “very gregarious and quite entertaining.”
Kilbride recalls Quinn talked very fast, with words leaving his mouth quickly and precisely “like a machine gun sometimes.”
He also had a knack for putting “a light spin on” on presentations at judicial events that made learning about “criminal law entertaining and educational.”
Another trait of Quinn’s that Kilbride said he appreciated was that “he knew exactly what he thought.” If he thought the Illinois Supreme Court was “nuts, “he would tell us," Kilbride said.
He said he and Quinn shared an affinity for the Chicago White Sox. Kilbride said Quinn told him he couldn’t go to one of the crosstown rivalry games between the Sox and Cubs because he had to undergo a medical procedure.
Kilbride, who stressed that Quinn would have been able to deliver the story much better, recalled Quinn saying he told his doctor to turn off music because he wanted to hear the score and after hearing his team wasn’t doing well, jokingly told the doctor to put him out of his misery.
“That’s how much he loved and hated them,” Kilbride said, adding that the story also shows how Quinn always had a sense of humor even in tough situations.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” he said. “He was just a fun guy to be around.”
Justice John B. Simon agreed with Kilbride, saying that Quinn had perfect delivery when it came to his natural and positive sense of humor.
“He had such a magnetic personality,” Simon said. “Everybody loved him.”
Simon served with Quinn on the court’s Rules Committee during his time as chairman and then “had the good fortune” to work with him behind the bench when he was appointed last year to the same appellate court division Quinn belonged to.
“I immediately recognized all the attributes he had,” Simon said, explaining that Quinn’s passion for his job, knowledge of the law and collegiality were clear from Day 1.
Simon said Quinn “could unwind a knot in two minutes” and was always willing to share his experience and advice with him.
“Having him as a colleague was a gift,” Simon said. “He was everything you could ask for in a colleague and a friend.”
Prior to his election to the appellate court in 1996, Quinn, known most recently for his rulings in gun cases that were eventually overturned, worked for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The Chicago native went to the University of Illinois at Chicago and earned his law degree from The John Marshall Law School in 1980.
Neville said services for Quinn are pending.