The John Marshall Law School, J.D. 1978 (High Distinction)
Chicago Theological Seminary, M. Div. 1973
Lake Forest College, B.A. 1970
Recipient of a Herman Kogan Meritorious Achievement Award for legal journalism
Founder and legal counsel of GreenTOWN Waukegan, Inc. f/k/a TOWN (Taskforce On Waukegan Neighborhoods) (1996-present)
Founder and legal counsel of Christians Helping Inspire Local Development (CHILD)
Ordained American Baptist Minister (outreach programs for at-risk-youth)
Served on boards of Lake County Chaplaincy Service, Love Inc., and other community organizations
Retired as of August 1, 2015
During 36 years of law practice in Lake County, Illinois, Newton E. Finn was fortunate to handle a variety of cases of public interest. During his first year in practice, Mr. Finn challenged the real estate tax assessment system in Lake County, obtaining an injunction to stop the collection of increased real estate taxes when proper notice had not been given of increases in the assessed property values. Soon thereafter, Mr. Finn was retained to form a new Illinois municipality, the Village of Beach Park, which was accomplished after a lengthy legal battle with other municipalities that were seeking to annex the numerous acres of unincorporated land adjacent to their borders.
Having achieved notoriety in issues of governmental law, Mr. Finn was hired by an Illinois sport fishing association to bring a legal action against the State of Illinois, which was siphoning off into general revenue the interest on conservation and fish and wildlife funds. An injunction was obtained against the State Treasurer that forbid this siphoning, requiring that the interest earned by these funds be spent only for conservation purposes. Subsequent suits brought by Mr. Finn on behalf of homeowners in rural neighborhoods helped to curtail high-density development and inappropriate commercial uses that interfered with the charm and value of those rural properties.
As a lifelong Waukeganite, Mr. Finn turned his attention to his hometown and organized a large, dynamic citizens’ group to combat the citywide spread of slum housing and abandoned buildings. Filing more than 100 cases on behalf of residents in close proximity to these blighted properties, Mr. Finn obtained court orders in virtually every case that required the slumlords or absentee owners to rehabilitate their properties, bringing them into compliance with building and zoning codes. Mr. Finn also worked in partnership with the Waukegan Police Department to close down the city’s most notorious crack house and to stop the criminal use of other buildings by street gangs and drug dealers.
When a grisly murder of child occurred near Mr. Finn’s Waukegan home, and a highly questionable suspect was charged with the crime, Mr. Finn attended each day of the trial, took notes, and wrote a riveting article about the trial in NorthShore Magazine. Not only did his efforts result in a coveted Kogan Award for legal journalism, but his article convinced Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions to represent what appeared to be a wrongfully convicted defendant. Also convinced of the defendant’s innocence, Mr. Finn worked with the Wrongful Conviction Center to overturn the conviction and identify the real murderer. As a result of these efforts, the innocent defendant, eventually cleared by DNA testing, walked out of prison a free man some 19 years after his conviction, and the murder case was reopened.
As the capstone of his legal career, Mr. Finn was honored to serve his beloved City of Waukegan as its Corporation Counsel from 2009-2013, helping a new independent mayor to curtail corruption, eliminate waste, and professionalize city services. While much more could be said about the legal career of Newton Finn and his contributions to his profession and community, let it suffice to say that his retirement in August of 2015 leaves a rich and promising legacy as his firm, now under the new management of his daughter, Anna Finn Vinson, and his “second daughter,” Amy Lynn Lonergan, continues to build upon the services he performed for 36 years, memorialized in the motto of Finn & Finn, Ltd.: Solving Problems, Seeking Justice.