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Press Release

NIU Law Award Honorees
Share Dedication to their Communities

September 29, 2015

DeKalb, Ill.--NIU Law Dean Mark Cordes and the Law Alumni Council honored alumni and friends who share a dedication to the communities they serve during their annual Awards Reception September 24 at the University Club of Chicago. The seven honorees were recognized for their career accomplishments, devotion to the public good, continued service to the law school and professional integrity in their work in the public and private sectors.

“NIU Law is committed to instilling in our graduates a sense of giving back to the communities they serve,” said Dean Cordes. “It is a proud moment as we honor these alumni and friends of the school who best embody this spirit of public service.”

The 2015 honorees include:  

Award winner Eric C. Weis.Eric C. Weis (’97) was honored as Alumnus of the Year. Eric is serving his third term as State’s Attorney for Kendall County. Prior to his election in 2006, Weis was the first Assistant State’s Attorney of Kendall County where he served as the chief felony prosecutor for most major violent and drug-related offenses. Throughout his career, Eric has been involved in many organizations including the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association, Kendall County Chiefs of Police Association, and the Illinois Capital Litigation Bar. He has dedicated hundreds of hours serving the residents of Kendall County in various community activities including the Kendall County Food Pantry, Big Brothers/Big Sisters Regional Council, Kendall County Juvenile Justice Council, and Yorkville Youth Baseball and Soccer Coach.

Award winner Robert M. Morgan.Robert M. Morgan (’05) was honored as Young Alumnus of the Year. Bob serves as special counsel at Much Shelist in Chicago, IL. He is a health care regulatory and policy attorney with extensive experience in public service and the private sector. Bob helps hospitals, health systems, consulting firms, pharmacies, advocacy groups and other clients navigate complex relationships between lawmakers, government officials, and law-enforcement agencies. He was the first statewide project coordinator for the State of Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. He has also served as general counsel for the Illinois Department of Public Health; associate general counsel in the Office of the Governor of the State of Illinois; and as lead attorney on issues involving health care, the Affordable Care Act, private and public insurance issues, and health information technology.

Award winner Keith Grant.Keith Grant (’87) received the Distinguished Service Award. Keith is the Lake County, Illinois Public Defender’s chief of Special Defense and Professional Development, responsible for the coordination and actual litigation of Public Defender complex cases and all training conducted for all employees (legal and otherwise) in the office. Keith is also the chief of the Public Defender’s Guardian Ad Litem Division, representing abused and neglected minors. Keith continues to represent defendants in numerous high-profile and serious cases in Lake County. He lead the team that obtained the release of Jerry Hobbs, wrongfully accused of murdering his daughter and another 8 year old girl, and has tried two of the few cases in Illinois where the media has been allowed cameras in the courtroom. Keith is a past-president of Lake County’s Jefferson Inn of Court, immediate past-president of the Lake County Bar Association, and second-term president of the Illinois Public Defender Association. 

Award winner Thomas P. Lanigan.Thomas P. Lanigan (’84) was presented with the Outstanding Service Award. Tom is an assistant United States Attorney with the United States Department of Justice. Since August 2000, he has been assigned to the economics crimes section in the Fort Lauderdale office where he has prosecuted a series of bank frauds, identity thefts, advance fee frauds, credit card frauds, money laundering and mortgage frauds. He has also worked in the organized major crime section and narcotics and violent crime section. Tom is active in the Lawyers for Literacy teaching program in Miami-Dade County, Florida, is an occasional presenter at meetings of the Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) South Florida Chapter, and is an occasional instructor at the Department of Justice National Advocacy Center (NAC) located on the University of South Carolina campus in Colombia, South Carolina.

Award winner Hon. Ann B. Jorgensen.Justice Ann B. Jorgensen was honored with the Public Service Award. Justice Jorgensen has served as a member of the Illinois Appellate Court - Second District since 2008. Following her election to a full term on the Appellate Court in 2010, she was elected Presiding Judge from 2010 to 2012. She began her career in the judiciary as an Associate Judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit in 1989. She was assigned to the law division and thereafter appointed Supervising Judge of the Mandatory Arbitration Program. In 1994, Justice Jorgensen was elected Circuit Judge and subsequently retained in 2000 and 2006. Justice Jorgensen is a past president of Illinois Judges Association, former member of its board of directors, and current member of the Illinois Judges Association Foundation. She is a judicial member of the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee and an active member of the Illinois State Bar Association. Justice Jorgensen serves on numerous committees and presents at various bar association and legal programs.

Award winner Wendy Hinton Vaughn.Wendy Hinton Vaughn received the Honorary Alumna Award. Wendy is a clinical associate professor in the College of Law’s Clinical Faculty and the supervising attorney of the law school’s Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic in Rockford. She directs the Civil Justice Clinic and co-teaches Poverty Law in Theory and Practice at NIU. She is serving her second term as the President of the Board of Directors of Prairie State Legal Services and is a founding member of the Board of Directors of Children’s Safe Harbor. She is also the vice-chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services and is actively involved with the 17th Judicial Circuit Court Family Violence Coordinating Council. Wendy additionally serves as the chair of the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team, as a Core Team member of the Domestic Violence Coordinated Court’s Planning Committee, as a member of the Domestic Violence Impact Panel Committee, and as a founding member of the Elder Abuse Fatality Team for Boone and Winnebago Counties.

Award winner William B. Obuchowski.William C. Obuchowski (’13) was presented with the Mentor of the Year Award. William is an attorney and litigator with the firm of Alberts Curran & Eiler PC in Chicago, Illinois. His practice is focused on personal injury, wrongful death, and premises liability in the northern region of Illinois including Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. William was a member of the NIU Law Review for two years including one year serving as an Assistant Editor and contributing to the process of publishing multiple volumes of scholarly works each year. He also was active in the Public Interest Law Society where he served as co-chair for the Annual Fundraising Auction for two years and further studied attorney-client communications when he represented NIU Law at the American Bar Association’s regional client counseling competition in Chicago. Additionally, William has volunteered his time to Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office where he sought to provide access to justice to various underrepresented groups, and as a 1L mentor for the NIU College of Law.

The Award Recipients are pictured with (left) Dean Cordes, Alumni Council President Brent Eames (’09), and Alumni Council First Vice-President and Awards Chair Melinda Rosales-Byerly (’03).

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For more information, contact:
Melody Mitchell
Alumni Events & Public Relations
(815) 753-9655 or

mmitchell@niu.edu

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