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James Holderman

James Holderman

Former chief judge | U.S. District Court | Class of 1971

Nearly 50 years later, the Hon. James Holderman can still recall exactly where he was and what he was doing the moment his career path veered in a different direction. 

The setting: the courtroom at the College of Law on a Saturday in the fall of 1968. The scenario: Holderman, then a first-year law student, was picked to be a mock trial juror. 

A few hours later, his dream of being an estate planning lawyer was over. 

“From that Saturday forward, I wanted to be a trial lawyer and eventually a trial judge. I was able to achieve both of those goals because of that one day in that courtroom,” says Holderman (BS ’68, agricultural science; JD ’71), who spent 30 years on the federal bench, seven of them as chief justice for the Northern District of Illinois.