St. Clair County Circuit Judge Jan Fiss is remembered as a devoted family man and an impartial judge who gave out tough sentences.
Fiss, 76, died Nov. 19 at his residence after a battle with cancer.
Fiss, a Democrat, presided over the felony division in St. Clair County and was expected to retire in December. St. Clair County Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf was elected to fill Fiss’ vacancy.
St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson said he is saddened by Fiss’ death.
“Judge Fiss was a longstanding judge who on a daily basis brought great humor and lightheartedness into the courthouse.
“He’s a friend of mine, a good man and we’re going to miss him,” Gleeson said.
Gleeson added that Fiss always made sure to set aside time for his family. He was dedicated to his two sons and loved being a grandfather.
Belleville attorney and former St. Clair County judge Tom Daley said Fiss was a very good friend but was able to separate his work on the bench from his personal life.
Daley, who has been dubbed “The DUI King” focuses on criminal law. He said that despite his close friendship with Fiss, the judge was “pretty tough on the guys I represented.”
“I got some of my worst sentences from him,” he said.
Daley said Fiss’ favorite words to describe Daley’s clients were “deplorable, horrible and despicable.”
Daley said he has known Fiss since the early 1960s. He said he was best friends with Fiss’ brother, who was later killed while serving in Vietnam. Then he and Fiss shared the same group of friends after law school.
He said he enjoyed playing cards, going to ball games and tailgating with Fiss.
According to his obituary, Fiss was born in 1942 in East St. Louis, but spent much of his childhood in New York City where he attended St. Rosa Lima Catholic School. He later graduated from Assumption High School in 1960.
Fiss graduated from Arizona State University in 1964 and earned his J.D. from the University of Illinois’ College of Law in 1968 after spending some time in Europe.
Following graduation, Fiss worked in private practice for Kassly Weihl & Bone while also serving as the Caseyville Village Attorney.
Fiss served as a judge for more than 40 years. He was appointed an associate judge in 1979 and was elected a circuit judge in 1995.
He briefly served as St. Clair County chief judge before stepping down in March 2007. Former circuit judge John Baricevic was then elected chief judge.
Fiss was retained to a six year term as a circuit judge in 2012 with 75 percent of the “yes” votes. He was also retained with 75 percent of the vote in 2000 and 2006.
In a 2005 Q&A with the Record, Fiss shared his love for the St. Clair County Circuit Court and implied that he had no intentions of pursuing a seat on a higher court.
“I really have the best job in the world. Need I say more,” he said.
Fiss was a member of the Illinois and St. Clair County Bar Associations
He also attended Saint Clare Catholic Church in O’Fallon.
“Jan was a devoted husband, loving father, doting grandfather, and the anchor of his family,” his obituary states.
A visitation will be held on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.at Kurrus Funeral Home in Belleville.
A memorial service will follow the visitation at 7 p.m. at the funeral home with Deacon Dennis Vander Ven officiating.