Julius Hoffman

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Julius Hoffman
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
In office
February 3, 1972 – July 1, 1983
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
In office
May 14, 1953 – February 3, 1972
Appointed byDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded bySeat established by 64 Stat. 443
Succeeded byRichard Wellington McLaren
Personal details
Julius Jennings Hoffman

(1895-07-07)July 7, 1895
Chicago, Illinois
DiedJuly 1, 1983(1983-07-01) (aged 87)
Chicago, Illinois
EducationNorthwestern University (Ph.B.)
Northwestern University School of Law (LL.B.)

Julius Jennings Hoffman (July 7, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He presided over the Chicago Seven trial.

Education and career[edit]

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Hoffman attended the Lewis Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) and then received a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Northwestern University in 1912. He received a Bachelor of Laws from Northwestern University School of Law in 1915. He was in private practice of law in Chicago with the law firm of White and Hawxhurst from 1915 to 1936 and with the law firm of Markheim, Hoffman, Hungerford & Sollo from 1944 to 1947. He was general counsel for the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company from 1936 to 1944. He was a Judge of the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois from 1947 to 1953.[1][2]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Hoffman was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on April 27, 1953, to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, to a new seat created by 64 Stat. 443. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 13, 1953, and received commission the next day. He assumed senior status on February 3, 1972. His service was terminated on July 1, 1983, due to his death in Chicago.[2]

Notable cases[edit]

Over the course of his career as a judge, Hoffman presided over numerous important cases, including a tax evasion case against Tony Accardo, an obscenity case against Lenny Bruce, a deportation suit against falsely accused Nazi war criminal Frank Walus, and several desegregation suits.[1]

Chicago Seven[edit]

Hoffman's most notable case was the trial from April 9, 1969, to February 20, 1970, that involved charges against protesters arrested during the 1968 Democratic Convention,[3] originally known as the "Chicago Eight". During the course of the Chicago Eight trial, Hoffman refused to allow defendant Bobby Seale to represent himself after Seale's original attorney became ill. This prompted conflicts with Seale that led to Hoffman ordering Seale to be gagged and shackled in the courtroom and eventually jailed for contempt. Finally Hoffman removed Seale from the trial, leaving the case with only seven defendants, at which point the trial became known as the "Chicago Seven" trial. Judge Hoffman became the favorite courtroom target of the Chicago Seven defendants, who often openly insulted the judge.[4] Abbie Hoffman (no relation) told Judge Hoffman "you are a 'shande fur de Goyim'" ["disgrace in front of the Gentiles"]. You would have served Hitler better." He later added that "your idea of justice is the only obscenity in the room."[4] Both Davis and Rubin told the Judge "this court is bullshit."

All seven were found by a jury to be not guilty of conspiracy, but five of the defendants were found guilty of inciting a riot, and Judge Hoffman sentenced each of the five to the maximum penalty: five years in prison and a fine of $5,000, plus court costs. In addition, Hoffman sentenced all eight defendants and both of their lawyers (William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass) to lengthy jail terms for contempt of court.[5]

On May 11, 1972, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated all of the contempt convictions, and on November 21, 1972, reversed all of the substantive convictions on a number of grounds. Among other things, the appeals court found that Judge Hoffman had not sufficiently measured the biases of the jury and that he had exhibited a "deprecatory and often antagonistic attitude toward the defense."[5]

Later life[edit]

In 1974, author Joseph Goulden wrote a book called The Benchwarmers, which was an exposé of the powerful and often private world of federal judges. Goulden conducted an in-depth investigation of Judge Hoffman and pointed out that he had an abrasive reputation among Chicago lawyers even before his most famous case. Goulden mentioned a survey that had been done among Chicago attorneys who had recently appeared before the judge and 78% had an unfavorable opinion of him. They responded overwhelmingly negatively to the questions "Does he display an impartial attitude?" and "is he courteous to both the prosecution and defense?"[6]

In 1982, the Executive Committee of the United States District Court ordered that Hoffman not be assigned any new cases because of his age and complaints that he was acting erratically and abusively from the bench. However, he continued to preside over his ongoing cases until his death from natural causes the next year, a week before his 88th birthday.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

  • John Prine's song "Illegal Smile" describes escaping the reality of a bad day, but ending up in court. "And the judge's name was Hoffman."[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Judge Julius Hoffman Archived 2010-12-11 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "Hoffman, Julius Jennings - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  3. ^ "'Chicago 10' Re-Animates a Protest Story".
  4. ^ a b J. Anthony Lukas (1970-02-06). "Judge Hoffman Is Taunted at Trial of the Chicago 7 After Silencing Defense Counsel". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  5. ^ a b Chicago 7 chronology, umkc.edu; accessed April 30, 2018.
  6. ^ The Benchwarmers, Ballantine Books (January 12, 1976), ISBN 034524852X/ISBN 978-0345248527

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Seat established by 64 Stat. 443
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Succeeded by
Richard Wellington McLaren