DATE OF APPOINTMENT
July 24, 1979
ENTERED ON DUTY
September 4, 1979
On July 24, 1979, Judge Aspen was appointed by President Carter to the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. On July 1, 1995, he
was elevated to Chief Judge. In a 1988 survey of Chicago Litigators, the Chicago Lawyer
magazine gave Judge Aspen the highest rating of any United States District Judge of
the Northern District of Illinois. The Chicago Lawyer named Judge Aspen its 1995
Person of the Year.
Judge Aspen is a past member of the Board of the Federal Judicial
Center. He has served as a member of the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy
System and of the Trial Bar Implementation Committee of the United States Judicial
He served as Chair of the Committee on Civility of the Seventh Federal
Judicial Circuit. This Committee promulgated civility standards that were subsequently
adopted by the Seventh Circuit, and by Courts and Bar Associations nation-wide.
Judge Aspen is a recipient of the Center For Public Resources Award for
Significant Practical Achievement for Excellence and Innovation for Alternative Dispute
Resolutions and Dispute Management. He has received the Northwestern University Alumni
Association Award of Merit and an award from the National Center for Freedom of
Information Studies (Society of Professional Journalists).
Prior to his appointment to the United States District Court, Judge
Aspen served as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County of the State of Illinois. He
was appointed to that position on September 16, 1971, and on November 4, 1974, was elected
to a full term. He served five years in the Criminal Division and three years in the Civil
Law-Jury Division. As a state trial judge, Judge Aspen served as Chair of the Recent
Developments in Criminal Law, Evidence, and New Judges Committees of the Illinois Judicial
Judge Aspen was an Assistant State's Attorney of Cook County from 1960
through 1963. Thereafter, he joined the staff of the Corporation Counsel of the City of
Chicago, where he served as Head of the Appeals and Review Division of that office. He
personally handled hundreds of appeals in state and federal courts, including several
before the Supreme Court of the United States. Early in 1971, he resigned from the
Corporation Counsel's Office and engaged in the private practice of law, specializing in
trial and appellate advocacy, prior to his appointment to the state bench.
Judge Aspen was a draftsman for and a member of the Illinois Supreme
Court Committee to Revise the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961, Chair of the Associate Rules
Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court, Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on
Ordinance Violation Problems, and Vice-Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on
Pattern Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases.
For nearly three decades Judge Aspen has taught courses in evidence,
criminal law, trial technique and municipal law at Northwestern University School of Law.
In 1992, he was named the Edward Avery Harriman Adjunct Professor of Law by Northwestern
University School of Law. He has lectured at judicial conferences and trial advocacy
programs both in the United States and abroad. Subjects have included judicial management,
trial bar rules, continuing legal education and complex litigation.
He has planned and participated in legal seminars at, among other
schools, Harvard University, Emory University, University of Florida, Oxford University
(England), University of Bologna (Italy), Nuremberg University (Germany), University of
Cairo (Egypt), University of Zimbabwe, University of Malta, University of the Philippines,
University of Madrid (Spain). He has served as Chair of the Advisory Board of the
Institute of Criminal Justice of the John Marshall Law School and as a member of the
Georgetown University Law Center Project on Plea Bargaining in the United States. Judge
Aspen also has been a frequent faculty member of the National College of the State
Judiciary, University of Nevada (Reno) and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy
(Colorado). Judge Aspen has served on a special faculty (composed of British and American
lawyers and judges) for the NITA Advanced Trial Advocacy Program, which introduces British
trial techniques to experienced American Litigators. Judge Aspen has also served on a
special faculty (composed of Scottish and American lawyers and judges) for an American Bar
Association program, which is designed to acquaint Scottish lawyers with modern litigation
Judge Aspen has written extensively on numerous legal subjects. His
publications include five books and over two dozen articles.
American Bar Association:
Judge Aspen is a past member of the Board of Governors. He is a member
of the ABA Journal Board and of the House of Delegates. Judge Aspen is President of the
American Bar Association Museum and a member of the Board of the American Bar Foundation.
He is past Chair of the Executive Committee of the National Conference of Federal Trial
Judges (Judicial Administration Division). He has served as member of the Councils of both
the Section of Litigation and the Section of Criminal Justice, and as Chair of the Section
of Criminal Justice Committee Rules of Criminal Procedure. He was a member of the
Editorial Board of the Section of Criminal Justice Magazine, Criminal Justice. He
is past Co-Chair of the Liaison with the Judiciary Committee of the Section of Litigation.
He has served as a member of the Jury Comprehension Study Committee of the Section of
Litigation and has participated in Section programs throughout the country.
Chicago Bar Association:
Judge Aspen has served as a member of the Board of Managers of the
Chicago Bar Association, as Chair of the Criminal Law Committee, and as a member of the
Board of Editors of the Chicago Bar Record. He has been a member of the Chicago Bar
Association's Special Commission on Criminal Justice, Committee on Committees, Committee
on Continuing Legal Education, Committee on Development of Law, and Committee on Civil
Illinois State Bar Association:
Judge Aspen has served as Chair of the Public Relations, Corrections,
Fair Trial/Free Press and Criminal Law Committees. He has been a member of several other
American Inns of Court:
Judge Aspen is a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Inns
of Court Foundation. He is one of the organizers and past president of the Northwestern
University School of Law American Inns of Court Chapter.
Judge Aspen was a member of the Federal Bar Examination Committee of
the National Conference of Bar Examiners. He has served as a Commissioner of the Illinois
Law Enforcement Commission and the Governor's Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice.
Judge Aspen has been a member of the Cook County Board of Corrections and the Board of the
John Howard Association.
Judge Aspen is past president of the Northwestern University School of
Law Alumni Association. He has served as a member of the Visiting Committee of the
University of Chicago Law School and the Northwestern University School of Law, and is
currently a member of the Visiting Committee of the Northern Illinois University School of
Law. He is Chair of the Advisory Committee for Short Courses (Post Law School Educational
Program) at Northwestern University School of Law.