Fifth Appellate Judge Terrence J. Hopkins, 58, of West Frankfort has died of an apparent heart attack.
Stephen L. Spomer, presiding justice of the Fifth Appellate Court, said the court is saddened by Hopkins' unexpected death.
"Judge Hopkins was exceptional," Spomer said in a release. "He was an extraordinary jurist, a kind and decent person who cared deeply about his fellow man, and most of all a dear friend. On behalf of the Appellate Court, our condolences extend to Terry's wife and family and his many friends throughout Southern Illinois."
Spomer said arrangements for Hopkins' funeral are incomplete.
Appellate Court Judge Steve McGlynn said Hopkins was "beloved."
"He was very energetic, witty and always in a good mood," McGlynn said. "When I first came to the court he was a mentor and helped me learn the ropes."
McGlynn said Hopkins was also very well respected among appellate court judges statewide.
"Terry was routinely asked to share his knowledge and insight," McGlynn said.
St. Clair County Chief Judge Jan Fiss said Hopkins' death is a serious loss.
"Not only was he an outstanding jurist, he was a good friend," Fiss said. "He was one of those guys that had that rare combination of being extremely professional, and was also very likeable."
"He would light up a room," Fiss said.
Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis said she did not know Hopkins well, but knew that he was "eminently respected and well-liked by all of his colleagues."
Madison County Circuit Judge Lola Maddox said her professional acquaintance with Hopkins was limited.
"But he was a charming and personable man who never failed to greet you with his famous grin, firm handshake, and some Irish joke or story or kind words about your work as a judge," Maddox said.
"He was still very young, and I would certainly extend my condolences to his family for their loss."
East Alton attorney Ed Unsell said, "We lost an outstanding jurist."
Hopkins received his B.A. degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1970 and his J.D. degree from St. Louis University in 1974. He has been Franklin County State's Attorney (1976-83) and a Circuit Judge in the Second Judicial Circuit (1983-94). In November 1994, he was elected to the Appellate Court, Fifth District.
Hopkins belonged to the American Trial Lawyers' Association (now known as the American Association of Justice), the Franklin and Jefferson County Bar Associations, the Illinois Judicial Conference, and Elks and Moose Clubs. He previously belonged to the Illinois Appellate Service Commission of Illinois State's Attorneys (1979-83), and received "Best Actor" awards from the Pyramid Players in 1991 and 1992.
Hopkins and his wife, Jeri, have three children.