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Raymond K. Berg

 

Father, Mentor & Judge

Raymond Berg was born in 1931, in Duluth, Minnesota to immigrant parents from Scandinavia. Due to the great depression, Ray’s family  returned first to Sweden and then to Norway, to live with family, while Ray’s father worked in Chicago and sent money back to his wife and children.

It was only after World War II was in full gear and Norway was on the verge of being invaded by Germany, that Raymond and his family escaped on the last boat out of Norway. There were U-boats sinking passenger ships and mines littered the North Atlantic. Thankfully, Ray and his family arrived safely back in the United States and settled in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.  Ray only spoke Norwegian and Swedish and had to learn English.

A boxing scholarship through the CYO program in Chicago landed Ray a scholarship to DePaul University, where he thrived, studying theatre and English literature. DePaul University generously gave Ray a scholarship to law school, where he graduated first in his class.  He was then given a prestigious scholorship to do Post Doctorate studies in International Law at Cambridge University in England. Ray was offered prestigious jobs in International law abroad, but chose to return to the United States to marry Janet Rauch and dedicate himself to public service in Chicago.

After clerking for a powerful Federal Judge, Raymond began working as an Assistant United States District Attorney, prosecuting organized crime and doing anti-trust work in Federal Court.  Raymond quickly built a reputation as an ace prosecutor, winning 35 consecutive criminal convictions.

While a prosecutor, Raymond was asked by President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and the United States District Court, to start an experimental program, called the Federal Defender Program, in Chicago, representing defendants in Federal Court who could not afford to hire their own attorney.   Raymond became the first director of the Federal Defender Program which was so successful, that it was initiated throughout the United States and continues to this day.

Raymond went to work with Seymour Simon in private practice where he worked on large anti-trust cases.  It was during this time that the late mayor Richard J. Daley and the Cook County Democratic Party asked Raymond to bring his prosecutorial skills to clean up the Traffic Court system.  As Chief Judge of the Traffic court, Judge Berg instituted tough DUI laws as well as new practices, in an attempt to end the rampant corruption.  Some of new procedures included taping court hearings, switching judge’s courtrooms on a daily basis and opening up the court files to the scrutiny of the press.

After five years under Judge Berg’s administration, the Chicago Traffic Court was awarded the title of “Best Traffic Court in the Nation”. In addition, the American Bar Association’s “Judges Award” was given to Raymond for his fine service as a traffic judge. Raymond eventually moved on to work in the prestigious Chancery Division, where he presided over some of the largest class action lawsuits of the time.

On July 4, 1979, Raymond was tragically killed while Scuba diving in Lake Geneva. Raymond left behind his wife of 19 years and 6 children, including, Peter and John Berg.

Peter and John Berg remember their father as a compassionate and caring person, who believed in standing up for the rights of the oppressed and working class, against those who attempted to abuse their power for personal gain. Peter and John carry on their father’s legacy by bringing justice to injured workers, exploited immigrants and those injured through the fault of others.

 

 

 

An election poster for Raymond Berg when he was running for a judgeship in Cook County.