JUSTICE LISA HOLDER WHITE
Justice Lisa Holder White of the Supreme Court of Illinois is a Decatur, Illinois, native, the daughter of Marvin and Corinne Holder. She attended Decatur Public Schools through third grade and the Macon Public Schools until 1986, when she graduated from Macon Community High School. Justice Holder White graduated Magna Cum Laude from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana-Champaign in 1993.
Her first legal position was as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Macon County, where she handled a wide range of cases from traffic violations to felonies. Later, she worked as an Assistant Public Defender, litigating on behalf of individuals accused of criminal offenses and representing abused and neglected children. After gaining experience in the criminal justice system, Justice White enjoyed a thriving practice at the Decatur law firm then known as Brinkoetter & White. She focused her practice on family and criminal law.
With this background, she was chosen as an Associate Judge in 2001, becoming the first Black judge in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. During her term as an Associate Judge, she was instrumental in securing and implementing the Redeploy Illinois Grant, aimed at reducing the incarceration rate for nonviolent juvenile offenders.
In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed her Circuit Judge to fill a retirement vacancy, and in 2010, she was elected to the position. In this role, she served as Supervising Judge of the Criminal Division.
Again selected to fill a vacancy, Justice White was sworn in as the first Black member of the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District on January 14, 2013. In 2014, she was elected to a full term on the appellate court.
On July 7, 2022, Justice White was sworn in as a Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, the first Black woman to hold this position.
judicial education, professional leadership, and public service.
She served on and later chaired the Illinois Supreme Court Judicial Conference Committee on Education (now known as the Committee on Judicial Education), charged with planning and providing continuing judicial education for judges at every level of the state’s judicial system. She chaired the New Judge Seminar Workgroup, responsible for planning the seminar held each year and attended by all new judges in the state. She has also served as a faculty member for this seminar. Further, Justice White frequently teaches at the bi-annual Education Conference, which provides mandatory continuing education for all Illinois judges. She has served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Judicial College and, as a member of the Illinois Judicial Conference that developed the Illinois Judicial Branch Strategic Agenda unveiled in October 2019.
A committed leader in the legal profession, Justice White is a member of the Decatur Bar Association, the Sangamon County Bar Association, and the Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association. She previously served on the board of the Illinois Judges Association and the Appellate Court Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice. She currently serves on the University of Illinois College of Law Leadership Project, and as co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Leadership Council. In her role as a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, she is the court’s liaison to the Illinois Judicial College, the Appellate Court Administrative Committee, the Supreme Court Committee on Illinois Evidence, and the Judicial Mentor Committee. In keeping with her interest in legal education, she has presented to many professional groups including Leadership Illinois, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Sangamon County Bar Association, and the Decatur Bar Association.
In addition to her service to the legal profession, Justice White is dedicated to giving back to the community. She has been a member of the boards of the Decatur Public Schools Foundation, the Mid-Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross, Millikin University, and the Community Foundation of Macon County. She served on the Project Success Right Track Truancy Roundtable, a group formed to address local truancy issues. She participated in Varsity Goes to City Hall, a group that paired high school students with professionals working in the students’ areas of interest. She enjoys hosting mock trial programs to expose young people to the justice system and to encourage those who are interested in a career in the law. Justice White has welcomed university and law school students into her chambers as externs. And, working with the Girl Scouts, has hosted activities that allow scouts to meet and learn from women who are judges, police officers, attorneys, court reporters, and probation officers. As part of the Illinois Supreme Court’s efforts to expose the public to the state’s legal history, Justice White participated in the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission’s program presenting a “retrial” of the famous insanity trial of Mary Todd Lincoln. Another such program addressed “The Alton School Cases,” and Justice White was a member of the panel discussion of these milestone cases.
She has received numerous awards for her accomplishments and service. In 2013, the Decatur YMCA and the United Way of Decatur and Mid-Illinois named Justice White their “Woman of the Year.” Chicago Lawyer Magazine named her 2022 Person of the Year. She has also received the Lewis University Alumni Achievement Award, the Joe Slaw Civil Rights Award from the Decatur branch of the NAACP, the Illinois Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award, the James Seaberry Award for Excellence from the University of Illinois College of Law Black Law Students Association, the Illinois Judicial Council Charles Freeman Pioneer in Justice Award, the Illinois Judges Association Harold Sullivan Award, the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois Diamond Award, and the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Judicial Achievement Award. Justice White has been awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.
Justice White is a member of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, where she serves on the Culinary Committee and enjoys singing in the choir. She and James, her husband of thirty-five years, are the proud parents of Brett and Myah.