On March 6, 2014, DePaul College of Law awarded Judge William J. Bauer the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
However, to call Judge Bauer’s career distinguished is an
understatement. Judge Bauer has worked as a public servant in several
impressive capacities: assistant state’s attorney, state’s attorney for
DuPage County, Illinois, judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit in
Illinois, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of llinois, district
court judge for the Northern District of Illinois, and circuit judge of
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
In addition, he has taught countless courses
on trial advocacy and criminal procedure across the country. Along the
way, Judge Bauer served as a mentor to numerous law students and
lawyers. I am lucky to count him as a mentor, as I had the honor of
clerking for him during the 2005-2006 term. Judge Bauer helped shape my
As a young lawyer, I knew I wanted public interest law to play a
significant role in my practice. While at DePaul, I helped to establish
the program that eventually became the Center for Public Interest Law.
When I clerked for Judge Bauer, he applauded this work and encouraged me
as I pursued my passion for constitutional law and civil rights. Judge
Bauer instilled in me that the point and privilege of being a lawyer is
to deliver the maximum amount of justice to the maximum amount of
Judge Bauer’s own career mirrors this principle. In his first job
out of law school, he worked as an assistant state’s attorney in DuPage
County. Though he earned a meager salary, money was not what motivated
Judge Bauer. For six and a half years he worked in an understaffed and
overworked office, but he was in trial court every day. Judge Bauer says
there were times it felt like he was earning a nickel an hour,
especially as he supported his young family, but those years were
invaluable because the experience provided him with a “million-dollar
Equally important, however, were the lessons Judge Bauer taught me
about collegiality and our responsibility to the legal community. Judge
Bauer is fond of saying that it “doesn’t cost a dime to be kind.”
Lawyers either forget this value or feel it will impede their advocacy.
Judge Bauer taught me that being a good lawyer and being a good person
are not mutually exclusive.
He advises that, in life, as in law, it is vital to be kind, be
decent and do the right thing. As I advocate for my clients, I keep
these lessons in mind. I am eternally grateful for my own million-dollar
education provided by Judge Bauer both during my clerkship and in the
years that have followed.
Karyn Bass Ehler (JD ’05) clerked for Judge William J. Bauer from
2005-2006. She is a partner at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym,