Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Circuit Judge Nicholas G. Byron

By The Madison County Record | Aug 22, 2004


AGE: 74

FAMILY: Wife, Mary & five children



  • Byron had been in charge of overseeing Madison County's vast number of asbestos-related lawsuits before unexpectedly giving up those responsibilities in June 2004. His role mainly involved ruling on motions and setting trial dates in asbestos cases, though they rarely go to trial

  • After former Carter Administration U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Madison County circuit court at a Washington University forum in April 2004, Byron barred Bell's Atlanta-based firm from practicing in Madison County.

  • In March 2003, a Madison County jury in Byron's courtroom awarded $250 million (including $200 million in punitive damages) to retired Gary, Indiana steelworker Roby Whittington who claimed U.S. Steel exposed him to asbestos that caused his lung cancer. Whittington was represented by prominent trial attorney (and former judge) Randy Bono.

  • Also in March 2003, Byron issued a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris that included $1.8 billion in lawyers fees. The verdict was the result of a class action lawsuit filed by attorney Stephen Tillery alleging the company defrauded smokers of light cigarettes. It was the first class action in the country to get to trial based on the allegation that Philp Morris had committed consumer fraud.

  • Byron served as chief circuit judge from 1995-97.

  • One year after being appointed to the Madison County circuit, Byron was challenged for the Democratic nomination for circuit judge in 1990 by then associate judge (and now fellow circuit court judge) Daniel J. Stack. Byron was victorious.

  • First appointed to the circuit court by the Illinois Supreme Court in January 1989 with fellow then associate and now Circuit Judges Edward C. Ferguson and Phillip Kardis. The trio filled vacancies left when Circuit Judges Philip Rarick and Charles Chapman were elected to the 5th District Appellate Court in November 1988 and Judge Horace Calvo was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court.

  • He was appointed associate judge in 1981 and served until 1989

  • Byron served as an Edwardsville alderman (1968) before winning election as Madison County State's Attorney where he served from 1972-80. He was defeated in his bid for a third term.

  • Served in U.S. Army as an infantry officer from 1953-55

  • Johns Hopkins University, B.A. (1953); Washington University School of Law (1958)

  • Born in Michigan in 1929; raised in northern Indiana

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