Ilana Diamond Rovner, Class of 1966
Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Born in Riga, Latvia, Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner was the first woman appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She began her career as a law clerk and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago in 1971. There, she became the first female supervisor in the history of the office and, as Chief of the Public Protection Unit, she was responsible for all civil rights, consumer fraud and vote fraud litigation in the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Rovner served as one of the chief trial attorneys in both of the landmark United States v. City of Chicago employment discrimination cases.
In 1977, Rovner left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to become Deputy Governor and legal counsel to Illinois Governor James R. Thompson. In that role, she wrote the governor’s Executive Order banning sexual harassment in the workplace and oversaw the creation of the Governor’s Office for Interagency Cooperation and the new Department of Human Rights. She was appointed a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 1984, where she served until her appointment to the Seventh Circuit in 1992.
How would you encourage a student to attend Chicago-Kent?
I love this law school. It was such a different experience for me. I’d had professors, but here I had professors who were also practicing attorneys. That really made quite a difference. There was a spirit in this law school I hadn’t experience. Everyone wanted to be helpful and they were close with one another.
Who was your favorite professor?
My favorite was, of course, Ralph Brill, and remains to this day. What a guy. He devoted himself to the students. He gave it more than his all and he still does. He’s beloved for a reason.
Can you describe your time on the court?
I could never distill my time on the court into one day. I’ll come in and say, “That was incredible! That was the most interesting case ever.” And I’d come in the next day saying the same thing like a broken record. I’ve always said I’ve never had to read a novel since I’ve become a judge. I see novels every single day, and nothing is more real than real life. I often say I’ve seen everything there is to see, and then something will happen, and I’ll know I haven’t seen everything there is to see. We see human nature at its absolute worst and often at its absolute best. More often, sadly, at its absolute worst.
What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting out today?
People tend to spread themselves way too thin, and that’s not a good thing. You want to do things properly, and you can’t if you’re running around constantly. Your word is your bond. Be kind to everyone along the way. If you’re not a kind person by nature, then you should be by practice. Often, what goes around does come around.
How would you persuade a potential student to come to Chicago-Kent?
I would say that Chicago-Kent is a school that nurtures, cares and prepares in the finest tradition of the profession. I would tell them that we have the finest writing courses and preparation of probably any law school. Technologically, we’re way ahead of most law schools. It’s the law school that could, and would, and does.