Southern Illinois University School of Law

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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Judge Borden

When you visit the law school at Southern Illinois University you immediately see the class pictures that line the walls marking the graduating classes from the inception of the school to the present. One is struck by the fact that there is no picture for the second class that graduated from the school, the class of 1977 or, as it has been said to me on numerous occasions, the class without a picture.

A natural reaction to the void on the wall might be that the class of “77” was not a very ambitious class and didn’t care enough about their Juris Doctorate degree to even gather for the commemorative class photo. However, if you actually delve into the alumni from “77”, you will see that they have done exceedingly well in their legal pursuits, and have brought acclaim and distinction to the law school.

As a member of that class, I still remember the excitement and anxiety of arriving on campus in the fall of 1974 and going to my first contracts class. Our first year class totaled about 80 students and was a mixture of returning Vietnam War veterans, older students going back to school with the advent of a new law school, and younger students who were recent undergraduates and came from different universities in Illinois and surrounding states.  Women were becoming an increasingly large segment of the student body at that time and made up about 25% of our class. The diversity created many different points of view on various legal and non-legal issues and made for some heated debates both in and outside the classroom.

I had recently graduated from Bradley University and did not know a single member of my class and viewed them as competitors at first, but soon the camaraderie grew and we became friends and colleagues. Part of the cohesiveness was the uniqueness of our new school and the fact that it was often deprecated by students from more established institutions. Those students appeared to believe that we only attended the new school because that was our only option. Although that might have been true with a few students, it certainly was not true with me or most of my classmates. I had done well at Bradley and scored very high on my LSAT. I was accepted at other seemingly more prestigious schools, but I liked the idea of the small and neophyte school where you could really receive a “hands on” and practical education. Also, tuition was a fraction of the other schools and I graduated without any parental financial assistance and no student debt. Most of my fellow students were in similar situations.

I arrived in Carbondale after taking a year off from academics in order to work, save some money and mentally prepare for the next three years. I quickly gained friendships with many of the other students and became roommates with Ron Spears and Tim Eaton. There was a competition between us (mostly friendly) as to grades and accomplishments and I am sure that helped motivate us upon graduation.

Ron is currently the resident Circuit Judge for Christian County and a former President of the Illinois Judges Association. He is very active in Judicial Education and is admired and respected as one of the leading judges in the state. Tim is the former President of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Appellate Lawyers Association. He is very active in various political and legal associations and is a partner in a prestigious Chicago law firm.
Another good friend was Scott Shore. Scott was the first classmate I met in Carbondale, and he later became an attorney and Judge (along with me) in the Tenth Circuit. Scott is currently the resident Circuit Judge of Putnam County and has been on the Bench for nearly twenty two years. Scott is also very active in judicial education and is widely known for his presentations at the Judicial Conference. I also became good friends with Wenona Whitfield and we worked together, under the direction of our Editor in Chief, Ron Spears, in the initial publications of the Southern Illinois University Law Journal. Of course, Wenona was a longtime professor and associate dean at the law school.

Tim, Scott, Wenona and Ron are only a few of the 1977 graduates who went on to distinguished careers in the bar and on the bench. Our graduating class consisted of 69 future lawyers and of that number, at least 8 became judges. My last count lists five Circuit Judges (Borden, Spears, Shore, Randy Moore, and Richard Brown), one Federal Judge (David Herndon), one Associate Judge (Timothy Neubauer) and one Federal Magistrate (Byron Cudmore). Other graduates became prominent attorneys in both the private and public sector and many have formed their own firms. Furthermore, at least two members of our class have served as Administrative Law Judges. I am sure there are many other classmates that should have been mentioned as well, and I hope they will contact me or the school so we can update this article.

Upon graduation, I secured a clerkship with Fourth District Appellate Judge Richard Mills and then moved back to my home county of Stark where I practiced law and served as State’s Attorney until my appointment as an Associate Judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit in 1991. I was later elected as Circuit Judge and served as Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit from 2007-2010. I am retiring at the end of this year and will return to private practice.

Although Carbondale and the SIU School of Law are far away, both in years and miles, I still think of my time there and how I was able to build a solid foundation for both my legal career and my personal life. I met my wife, Pam, at school and our daughter, Caroline, graduated from the law school in 2007 and now practices law in Peoria, Illinois.  I have many fond memories of my 1977 law school class and when I return to the school, I always look at the empty space on the wall and wish that people would realize that our class may not have a picture, but we do have a proud legacy.

                                                ~ Stuart P. Borden, Stark County Resident Circuit Judge
                                                   Proud Alumnus of the Class of 1977