Chicago legal giant, past ITLA president dies

Bethany Krajelis Jun. 12, 2012, 2:56pm


Chicago trial lawyer Philip Corboy, co-founder of Corboy & Demetrio P.C. and a past president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers' Association (ITLA), died early Tuesday in his home in Chicago. He was 87 years old.

Belleville attorney Gregory L. Shevlin, who serves as ITLA's current president, said in a statement on the association's website that Corboy "was a mentor for countless trial lawyers" and "left a mark on the civil justice system during his long and successful career as a trial lawyer."

Corboy, who focused his practice on personal injury and wrongful death cases, served as president of ITLA from 1963 to 1964. At about that same time, Shevlin said that the Illinois General Assembly limited awards to next of kin in wrongful death actions to $30,000.

Shevlin said that thanks to the lobbying efforts of Corboy and others, lawmakers eliminated the cap in 1967.

"He was a passionate champion of justice and believed in protecting the right to trial by jury," Shevlin said. "He was a legal giant who fought for the rights of not only his clients, but for all citizens in the State of Illinois."

Top government leaders in Illinois and Chicago also commented on Corboy's passing.

"Philip Corboy was more than an attorney; he was an advocate for everyday people," Gov. Patrick J. Quinn said in a statement. "His long career of service on behalf of consumers has made us all safer. His commitment to justice was exceeded only by his commitment to his family."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel referred to Corboy as one of the city's "most outstanding citizens" and "a giant in the legal community."

"Throughout his long career, Phil's commitment to seeking justice for the people he represented and public service never wavered and it was always his guiding principle," Emanuel said in a statement.

On top of his leadership in the legal community as past president of ITLA and the Chicago Bar Association, Emanuel said Corboy will be remembered for "the example he set in ensuring that those who had been victims of injury and injustice would have their voices heard."

Corboy's success in the legal community began in 1949, when he earned the distinction of graduating first in his class from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. A few years ago, the school renamed its law school building the Philip H. Corboy Law Center after Corboy and his wife, Mary Dempsey, made the single largest gift ever to the law school.

After Corboy was sworn in as an Illinois lawyer in 1949, he took a job as an assistant corporation counsel for the city of Chicago. Corboy's firm said in a statement on its website that exactly one year after Corboy received his law license, he successfully "argued his first case on behalf of the City of Chicago before the Illinois Supreme Court as a 26 year old attorney."

In 1950, Corboy left his first legal job to work with Chicago trial lawyer James Dooley, who later served on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Corboy's firm said "he tried his first jury trial a week and a half later after never selecting a jury, hearing an opening statement or being in court for a complete trial. The rest is history."

Two years later, Corboy started what is now known as Corboy & Demetrio. The firm said that Corboy's dedication and success in mentoring young lawyers earned the firm the nickname the Corboy College of Law.

"He was as generous as he was successful and he was very successful," his firm said. "A devout family man who considered all of his coworkers to be part of his extended family, Phil never hesitated to help anyone in need. From an employee who needed his guidance to a homeless person on the street or a tragedy-stricken family across the country, his love for mankind and his unique ability to connect with individuals in need and from all walks of life is unmatched."

In addition to his wife, Corboy is survived by three sons, Phillip Harnett Corboy Jr. (a partner at Corboy & Demetrio), John R. Corboy and Thomas Corboy, as well as eight grandchildren, a brother and many other family members and friends. Corboy's firm said he is preceded in death by his only daughter, Judge Joan Marie Corboy, who died at 45, and his youngest son, Robert J. Corboy, who died at age 12.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

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Illinois General Assembly
301 S 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62707

City of Chicago
121 N LaSalle St
Chicago, IL 60602

Illinois Supreme Court
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Springfield, IL 62701

Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
401 W Edwards St
Springfield, IL 62704

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