Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 01/04/2016


Hon. Pamela Pepper, Class of 1982
Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin

My strongest memory from my time as a student delegate is having drummed up the courage to ask Ed Asner for his autograph — I still have it somewhere.

I got my undergraduate degree in theater/interpretation at Northwestern University. After graduation, I attended Cornell Law School, where I participated in moot court competitions and was an editor on the law review. After law school, I was lucky enough to clerk for Hon. Frank M. Johnson, Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Being able to spend a year learning from a giant of judicial integrity, and a historic icon from the Civil Rights era, was a highlight of both my career and my life.

At the end of the clerkship, I joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois — the federal prosecutor’s office in Chicago. It was a wonderful experience. I was in court all the time, both for trials before the U.S. District Court and appeals before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. After four years there, I moved to the United States Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee, and spent three years prosecuting drug- and gang-related offenses. I left government service in 1997, and became a solo practitioner. As a defense attorney, I represented defendants in criminal cases from investigation through appeal in both federal and state court. I also became a frequent speaker on the topic of managing one’s own law practice, and taught legal writing and practice management at Marquette Law School. I also earned a graduate certificate in alternative dispute resolution from Marquette Graduate School.

In July 2005, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals appointed me to a seat on the bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. I served in that capacity for almost ten years, and served as chief judge of the four-judge court from 2010 until December 2014. I served as an editor for the American Bankruptcy Law Journal, a board member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, and a board member and officer of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. I spoke frequently to bankruptcy bar associations on evidence, and continue to be a faculty member at the Federal Judicial Center. On December 8, 2015, President Obama appointed me to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. I am the first woman to have been appointed to that court.

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