Obituary: Milton Shadur

During his time on the bench, Shadur authored more than 11,000 district court opinions, many of which involved groundbreaking cases.

By Lucia Geng, Contributor

Milton Shadur (B.S. ’43, J.D. ’49), retired U.S. District Judge, died on January 14 at the age of 93. 

Shadur served 37 years as a federal judge, having been appointed to his position by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He stepped down on September 1, 2017, due to complications from surgery.

During his time on the bench, Shadur authored more than 11,000 district court opinions, according to a statement from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Many of those opinions came in groundbreaking cases, including when Shadur ruled constitutional a voluntary school desegregation plan proposed by the Chicago Board of Education. The ruling was controversial, as some civil rights activists denounced the plan for not including busing of students. The activists believed city residents had a history of being resistant to voluntary desegregation, and would continue to oppose it.   

Shadur’s influence on the criminal justice system in Chicago was significant: In the 1980s, he approved a decree ordering the county to improve conditions and reduce overcrowding at Cook County Jail, and in 2002, he issued an order requiring that witnesses be guaranteed access to lawyers while being questioned at police stations. He was one of the first federal judges to acknowledge the use of torture by Chicago Police Department detectives, saying it occurred as an “established practice, not just on an isolated basis.”

In addition to his work on the bench, Shadur served multiple terms on the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School and was its chairman from 1971 to 1976. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ravinia Festival and served on the board of Glencoe Village, where he was a longtime resident, from 1969 to 1974. In 2017, he was the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Bar Association.

Shadur received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from UChicago at the age of 18, after which he served in the Navy during World War II. He later returned to UChicago to earn his law degree.

He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Eleanor, his daughter Beth, and his son Robert.