Bio: Melvin Lewis

Melvin B. Lewis – A Life Well Lived (1924-1993)

By Marshall Hartman
Attorney at Law

Mel Lewis (1924- 1993) was a lawyer’s lawyer. When I was in the Appellate Division of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, when we were stymied on a case and did not know which direction to take, we would consult with Mel, and he would give us the direction to take with the case. He was a modest man with a tremendous and powerful mind.

Mel had various paths to follow. He was a Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School. When the Illinois Public Defender Association and other law schools and community groups received a grant to develop a community based model defender office, (the “Consortium”) Mel Lewis was chosen to act as trainer, and over the course of a year he taught the lawyers in that program how to develop the theory of a case, voir dire, etc. to closing argument. Training sessions were held every two weeks where Mel lectured or let the lawyers do exercises which he critiqued. (It must be noted that he refused to accept any compensation for this labor of love.)

When the National College of Criminal Defense opened its doors, they called on Mel Lewis to be Vice-Dean and develop materials for that program. He never said no to any request for help from a public defender, private criminal defense lawyer, or law student. In addition, he was active in the NACDL and the Illinois Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers.

He was a wonderful person and role model for the young lawyer, and for all of us, and we sorely miss him.