Thomas P. Sullivan

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Thomas P. Sullivan was a prominent Illinois attorney known for his involvement in notable constitutional cases, investigations, and contributions to public policy and law. He was a partner at the Jenner & Block law firm. [1]


He died May 18, 2021 at age 91.


Sullivan was counsel on a case leading to a landmark 1968 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Witherspoon v. Illinois , prohibiting trial judges and prosecutors from using peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors because of personal opposition to the death penalty. Over 350 inmates, including Witherspoon, had their death sentences reversed as a result. In 1971, he won a case before the Illinois Supreme Court, People v. McCabe, which held that the state's statutory classification of marijuana as a "hard drug" was unconstitutional. [2]

From 1977 to 1981, Sullivan was the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois under President Jimmy Carter. While U.S. Attorney, he initiated the Operation Greylord judicial sting operation. [3]

In 2000, Illinois governor George Ryan appointed Sullivan to co-chair the Commission on Capital Punishment. [4] The report included 85 recommendations for reform and helped persuade Ryan to commute all death sentences. [5]

In 2003, Sullivan received the American Bar Association's John Minor Wisdom Award for his contributions to public service and the community. [6] In 2004, he was named Chicago Lawyer magazine’s Person of the Year. [7] In 2007, he received The American Lawyer's Lifetime Achievement Award. [2] He has written on numerous topics, e.g., the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. [8]

Sullivan attended Loras College and Loyola University Chicago School of Law, receiving a J.D. in 1952.

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  1. "Jenner & Block LLP: A National Law Firm - THOMAS P. SULLIVAN". Jenner & Block LLP. Archived from the original on 2010-04-15. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  2. 1 2 Davis, Kevin (February 2008). "The Elder Statesman". Illinois Super Lawyers 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  3. Turow, Scott (2007-04-15). "It's Up to Gonzales Now". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  4. "Commission on Capital Punishment - Former Governor Ryan's Executive Order". State of Illinois. 2000. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  5. "Online NewsHour: Limiting Executions". 2002-06-10. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  6. "Partner Thomas P. Sullivan to Receive John Minor Wisdom Award". 2003-04-07. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  7. "Chicago Lawyer's 2004 Person of the Year: Thomas P. Sullivan of Jenner & Block" (PDF). December 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  8. Sullivan, Thomas P. (2006-03-01). "A National Disgrace: Scandalous State of Affairs at Gitmo". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-02-14.