Daniel G. Martin
Daniel G. Martin

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel G. Martin, his longtime friend Richard S. Kling said, was “one of the funniest people in existence.”

Kling — a criminal defense attorney and professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law — said Martin’s sense of humor combined with his insight helped make him a wonderful judge.

Martin died Thursday. He was 63.

But Martin was more than that, Kling said. He “almost immediately adopted” Martin “as a member of my personal and professional family” when Martin became one of his first students at the law school in 1983.

Martin became a best friend who officiated at his wedding and who mentored students, Kling said. And he said Martin was a loving brother and father.

In a statement, Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo also noted Martin’s love for his family.

“Judge Martin’s greatest source of joy were his three daughters, Azalea, Kayla and Brianna,” Castillo said. “He always spoke of them with profound love and pride.”

Martin was born and raised on the South Side. He earned an undergraduate degree in political science and philosophy in 1981 at DePaul University.

Although Martin did not speak a word of Russian, he spent an academic quarter studying in the Soviet Union, an experience he later said “broadened my horizons considerably.”

After earning his J.D. in 1985 at Chicago-Kent, Martin joined the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Illinois.

Martin served first as a staff attorney with the program and then as a supervising staff attorney.

He wrote appeals during his first year and then began taking “duty days,” which meant he was responsible for handling any cases that came into the system while he was on duty.

That’s how Martin, barely two years into his career, ended up serving as second chair in a racketeering case involving city sewer inspectors charged with bribery.

Martin tried more than 60 jury trials and litigated more than 40 cases before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Martin created and administered the program’s Summer Trial Skills Institute in 2002.

He was an adjunct faculty member at Chicago-Kent, where he taught and coached many of the school’s trial advocacy teams.

In June 2012, Martin was selected by the judges on the federal trial court with lifetime tenure to fill the vacancy created when U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow retired.

Martin began serving an eight-year term as a magistrate judge in October 2012.

The duties of magistrate judges include conducting preliminary proceedings in criminal cases and presiding over the trial of civil cases and misdemeanor cases with the consent of the parties.

Magistrate judges also handle such matters as pretrial motions and evidentiary proceedings at the request of the parties.

Settlement conferences make up a large portion of a magistrate judge’s work.

In a 2015 interview with the Daily Law Bulletin, Martin said he viewed the role of a judge as a “peacemaker.”

At Martin’s formal installation on the bench in November 2012, friends and family members described him as fair, courageous and compassionate.

Martin’s brother, sole practitioner James Joseph Martin of Western Springs, told those attending the investiture that Martin’s compassion led him to spend time every year since 1975 at camps for children with disabilities.

The Martins’ niece, Cook County assistant public defender Ellen J. W. Brace, also spoke at the 2012 ceremony.

She described her “Uncle Danny” — whom she said she had started calling “Uncle Judge” — as “generous in spirit” and “incredibly likeable and fun-loving.”

In 2013, Martin agreed to release an 18-year-old man to home confinement after the man was accused of trying to travel to Syria to join militants linked to al-Qaida.

Martin stayed his order for 24 hours. The following day, U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang overturned it.

In an interview in 2015, Kling said his former student likely knew he would be criticized for his decision.

But that didn’t stop Martin, Kling said.

“He did what he thought was right,” Kling said, “and that’s what you want of judges.”

Funeral arrangement and visitation services were not known as of press time.