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Hon. James F. Holderman

Hon. James F. Holderman (Ret.)

Latest Insights
Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Antitrust & Competition
Business Commercial
Class Action & Mass Tort
Environmental Law
Federal Law
Franchise Distribution Law
Health Care
Intellectual Property
Life Sciences
Personal Injury
Professional Liability
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education
Former U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Holderman joined JAMS in June 2015 after serving for 30 years on the federal bench in Chicago. During his judicial career, Judge Holderman resolved more than 10,000 cases in all areas of federal jurisdiction. After joining JAMS, he quickly became a highly sought-after mediator among lawyers across the country. Plaintiffs' counsel, defense counsel, and in-house counsel who have mediated with him have repeatedly sought to retain him again.

Before joining the judiciary in 1985, Judge Holderman was a successful trial and appellate lawyer specializing in federal litigation as a partner with a predecessor to the law firm now known as Dentons, and served as an assistant U.S. attorney where he received multiple awards for distinguished service.

Judge Holderman is widely respected for his work ethic, his legal knowledge, his wealth of experience, especially in intellectual property, class action, and complex cases, and the practical way he approaches resolving disputes in the best interests of all concerned.

Representative Matters

  • Antitrust & Competition
      • Presided over and resolved multiple actions, including class actions alleging price fixing in wholesale sulfuric acid market; settled after pretrial rulings were affirmed on appeal (MDL 1536)
  • Arbitration
      • Issued numerous rulings regarding application of arbitration provisions in several contractual contexts, along with post-arbitration confirmations under federal law
  • Aviation
      • Presided over fatal airplane crash cases, including litigation involving issues of liability resulting from negligence by ground personnel and air traffic controllers
  • Banking
      • Presided over and resolved several Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation actions with the FDIC as receiver dealing with allegedly fraudulent transfers, including large bank creditors with alleged security interests
      • Presided over and resolved several large bank post-judgment collection actions against off-shore and foreign banking entities; settled typically after pretrial rulings
  • Business Disputes
      • Public and privately-owned businesses, including companies’ management control disputes: one recent case involving family-owned oil and gas companies; mediated settlement was reached following close of discovery
      • Licensor of online training modules demonstrating the operation of software sued its licensee for violations of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as state law; settled after pretrial rulings
      • Presided over and resolved numerous commercial cases brought by product sellers for collection of payments under the U.C.C. and state law; cases typically settled after pretrial discovery and rulings
  • Class Action & Mass Tort
      • Multi-district consolidated class actions alleging advertising misrepresentations and fraud; settled following discovery phase (MDL 2103)
      • Multi-district consolidated class actions against major financial company for alleged violations of Telephone Consumer Protection Act; multi-million dollar class-wide settlement reached during discovery phase (MDL 2416), multi-million dollar attorneys’ fee awards also
      • Class action against internet research company that induced consumers to install software to obtain computer usage information that was then sold in alleged violation of federal law
  • Environmental Law
      • Judge Holderman has experience with a number of environmental areas.  Among the more than 10,000 cases he resolved during his 30 years on the federal bench were environmental cases involving ground, water, air and sound pollution, as well as environmental regulatory issues.
        • Sample cases that received media attention are:
          • Kerr-McGee v. City of West Chicago, 90CV1319, 732 F.Supp. 922 (N.D. IL. 1990)(involving ground and water contamination)
          • City of Bensenville v. Chicago, 97CV3262(involving sound pollution around O’Hare  Airport).
  • Health Care
      • Presided over and resolved several cases involving rights and obligations for health care benefits, as well as allowances, under the Family Medical Leave Act and insurance provisions
  • Insurance
      • Presided over and resolved several factually separate but similar circumstances involving disability, health care, and property damage coverage under applicable insurance policies, federal law, and the state law of various states
      • Decedent’s estate’s and heir’s lawsuit against employer for life insurance offered under ERISA where employee signed declaration waiving coverage; settled after trial evidence presented but before bench trial determination
      • Insurer alleged competing insurer and underwriters accessed confidential information without authorization under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as state law; case settled after pretrial rulings
  • Intellectual Property
      • Patent litigation involving numerous cases filed nationwide by patent holder and major wireless equipment manufacturers; settled after Judge Holderman determined the RAND royalty for the standard essential patents at issue (MDL 2303), one of the first judges in the country to address the issue
      • Patent infringement litigation involving competing foreign and domestic manufacturers in the fiber optics industry, each of which owned and asserted multiple patents creating several cases; settled after two separate jury trials on separate patents, after several summary judgment rulings and after multiple appeals, which were affirmed or dismissed
      • Patent litigation involving a major athletic wear company and patent inventorship issues; settled after pretrial rulings and before trial
      • Trademark/copyright infringement brought by Chicago Cubs against owners of rooftop establishments surrounding Wrigley Field; settled before trial after pretrial rulings
      • Trademark and trade dress infringement: several cases, including an action by multi-million dollar candy manufacturer against a competing company; settled after injunction, trial, and appeal
      • Trademark litigation involving computer generated printing fonts against foreign manufacturer and its American distributor; settled after injunction ruling
      • Trademark litigation between competitors in folding-chair market as to the issues of infringement, registration, and functionality; settled after hearing and trial
      • Copyright action regarding alleged foreign copying of computer code; settled post-trial
      • Copyright action alleging infringement by major music star and group; settled pretrial
      • Trade Secret Litigation: Presided over, settled, and tried many trade secret cases involving allegations of former employees’ misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of fiduciary duty
  • Labor Disputes
      • Resolved several cases arising from reduction in force issues under the federal law
      • Resolved several cases involving unionization and election of leadership in alleged violation of federal law
      • Resolved numerous cases involving alleged employment discrimination and retaliation in alleged violation of federal law
  • Licensing
      • Patent licensing litigation alleging breach of agreement, implied licensing rights, scope of agreement, and obligations at issue by patent holder, estate, and heirs of well-known deceased inventor/patent holder
      • Patent licensing dispute arising from scope and application of license terms related to merger and acquisition by major electronics equipment manufacturer with licensee; settled after pretrial ruling on summary judgment
  • Personal Injury/Wrongful Death
      • Presided over numerous cases where commercial distributors of televised events sued business establishments for unauthorized interception of communications; settled typically after pretrial rulings
      • Presided over numerous cases where copyright owners of videos and movies sued for the alleged peer-to-peer file-sharing protocols and reproduction; cases typically settled after pretrial discovery provided
  • Pharmaceuticals
      • United States actions for seizure and condemnation of imported prescription drugs resulting from labelling under federal law
      • Plaintiff contracted toxic epidermal necrolysis, a severe form of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, after she ingested pharmaceutical; case settled after jury determination
  • Products Liability/Mass Torts
      • Nationwide, multi-district class actions filed throughout the country involving allegations of mass tort and products liability; settled during discovery phase (MDL 1946)
  • Professional Liability
      • Determined patent counsel’s opinion letters written while counsel was in undisclosed conflict of interest position due to law firm merger not admissible at trial
  • Telecommunications
      • Determined patent counsel’s opinion letters written while counsel was in undisclosed conflict of interest position due to law firm merger not admissible at trial

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS. 

  • Member, Advisory Council for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 2015-2018
  • Honors from and Leadership of Professional Organizations
    • American Inns of Court
    • American Bar Association
      • Recipient of Mark T. Banner Award, ABA Intellectual Property Section, 2012
      • Recipient of Legal Rebel Award for Innovative Service to Justice, 2009
      • Honorary Co-Chair, Litigation Section, ABA Annual Meeting, 2015
      • Chair of Litigation Section’s Trial Practice Committee, 2012-2014
      • Chair of the Commission on the American Jury Project, 2010-2012
    • Chicago Bar Association
      • Recipient of Distinguished Service Award, 2013
      • Recipient of Justice John Paul Stevens Award, 2012
      • Nominating Committee, 2012-2013
      • Board of Managers, 2009-2011
    • Chicago Inn of Court
      • Recipient of Joel M. Flaum Award, 2006
      • Founding Member, 1988
    • Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago
      • Recipient of Outstanding Service Award, 2013
    • Diversity Scholarship Foundation
      • Recipient of Advocate for Diversity Award, 2013
    • Federal Bar Association
      • Honorary Co-Chair of National Annual Meeting, 2011
      • Chicago Chapter Board of Directors, 2000-2004
    • Illinois State Bar Association and Foundation
      • Member, 2017 Class of Laureates of the ISBA Academy of Illinois Lawyers
      • Recipient of Outstanding Leadership Award, 2009
      • Recipient of Stalwart Fellow Recognition, 1998
      • Council Member, Federal Civil Practice Section, 2005-2015
    • Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago
      • Recipient of Advancing the Profession Award, 2013
      • Recipient of Honorary Membership, 2008
    • Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation
      • Recipient of Distinguished Intellectual Property Professional of the Year Award, 2012
    • Lawyers Lend-A-Hand Foundation
      • Recipient of Distinguished Service Award, 2013
    • Richard Linn Inn of Court
      • Recipient of Linn Alliance Leadership Award, 2015
      • President, 2011-2012
      • Founding Member, 2007
    • Phi Alpha Delta International Chicago Alumni Chapter
      • Recipient of Honorary Life Membership, 2015
      • Recipient of Outstanding Jurist Award, 2007
    • Women’s Bar Association of Illinois
      • Recipient of Mary Heftel Hooten Award, 2008
  • Honors and Appointments from Academic Institutions
    • University of Illinois College of Law
      • James C. Wood Distinguished Lecturer in Intellectual Property, 2007-2015
      • Recipient of Distinguished Law Alumni Loyalty Award, 2014
      • Recipient Outstanding Alumni Award, 1986
      • Adjunct Professor, “Advanced Trial Advocacy: Intellectual Property,” 1993-2015
      • President, Board of Visitors, 1993-1994
    • University of Chicago Law School
      • Keynote Speaker to Incoming Law Students, 2015
      • Adjunct Professor, Major Civil Litigation Course, 1983-2000
    • Northern Illinois University College of Law
      • Recipient of Public Service Award, 2014
      • Board of Advisors, 2013-2015
    • The John Marshall Law School
      • Recipient of Adjunct Faculty of the Year Teaching Award, 2015
      • Adjunct Professor, Intellectual Property Trial Advocacy, 1986-2015
      • Adjunct Professor, China Summer Program and Comparative Intellectual Property Mock Trial Demonstrations at SIPO, Beijing, China, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014
      • Honored Lecturer on American Law in Taiwan by Supreme Court of Taiwan, 2011
  • CLE Programs Presented, Publications
    • Panelist, Keys to an Effective Federal Civil Practice, Chicago Bar Association, May 2019
    • Keynote Speaker, Ten Concepts to Consider when Choosing Litigation v. Mediation to Resolve IP Disputes, American Intellectual Property Law Association, US Global IP Educational Forum, Chicago (July 13, 2017)
    • Judge Holderman made over 80 CLE presentations and authored several published articles on various legal topics over the past five years
    • "Top 10 Techniques of Highly Effective IP Trial Counsel," Corporate Counsel, Fall 2015
  • Published Books Co-Authored
    • “Patent Litigation Strategies Handbook with Updates,” 2011-2015
    • “Winning at Trial: Insights from the Bench and Leading Litigators,” 2014
    • “Common Law of Intellectual Property,” 2009
  • Published Profiles

Background and Education

  • Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, 1985-2015 (Chief Judge, 2006-2013)
  • Partner, Sonnenschein, Carlin, Nath & Rosenthal (n/k/a Dentons), specialized as Trial and Appellate Counsel in Federal Court Litigation, 1979-1985
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney, Chief, Public Corruption Section; Deputy Chief Special Prosecutions Unit, 1972-1978
  • Law Clerk, Hon. Edward J. McManus, Chief Judge of the Northern District of Iowa, 1971-1972
  • J.D., University of Illinois, College of Law, 1971 (Managing Editor of Law Review)
  • B.S., Agriculture Science, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, 1968
  • Member of Illinois, U.S. District Court, U.S. Tax Court, Fifth Circuit and Seventh Circuit Bars


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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