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  • Illinois
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)


Patricia Brown Holmes

Partner, Executive Committee Member, Diversity Committee Chair

"Indubitably Holmes"

Illinois Super Lawyers, February 2010

In My Own Words

Schiff Hardin

Patricia Brown Holmes is a trial attorney (former federal, state and local prosecutor) and former state court judge whose diverse practice includes:

  • Corporate internal investigations
  • Criminal internal investigations
  • Representation of high-profile individuals and corporations
  • State and federal trial experience

Internal Investigations

She has extensive experience conducting internal investigations at public and private corporations, governmental entities and non-profit organizations. She has conducted a variety of highly sensitive and confidential investigations involving CEOs and other high-level executives. She has represented special committees and boards of directors in a variety of internal investigations as well as presented findings of investigations to boards and high-level corporate officials.


Ms. Holmes' assorted criminal and civil litigation experience includes handling matters involving financial and accounting fraud, mail and wire fraud, corporate whistle-blower allegations and hot-line calls, contract disputes and other complex commercial litigation. She has also lectured on and completed internal investigations involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Chicago Daily Law Holmes
"Helping students succeed with support from a posse"Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, October 22, 2014

Governmental Investigations

Ms. Holmes is frequently tasked by state officials to assist in investigating sensitive matters. She was recently appointed by Illinois governor Pat Quinn to chair the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, which will promulgate rules and regulations and investigate claims of torture. Ms. Holmes completed the investigation of the City of Chicago's fire commissioner who was charged with allegations of sexual harassment and the alleged cover up by the executive director of the Office of Compliance. In early 2010, she completed the investigation surrounding the tragic incidents alleged to have occurred at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois as chair of the governor's Cemetery Oversight Task Force. That investigation led to new legislation regarding cemetery oversight and the funeral industry. She is also a member of Senator Dick Durbin's judicial commission to investigate backgrounds and select federal judges and the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois.

News Media Commentator

National, regional and local radio/television/cable/print/Internet news media regularly seek out Ms. Holmes for her insights and comments in connection with a wide range of topics, including criminal cases, government investigations and their outcomes; diversity/affirmative action and career advancement for women, minorities and the LGBT community; and law firm management. Illustrative topics have included the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, Illinois cemetery regulation reform, Judge Sonia Sotomayor's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and paths for women to greater professional success.


Ms. Holmes' significant and illustrative cases include:

  • United States v. Conrad M. Black et al. Ms. Holmes co-led the Schiff Hardin trial team that defended former Hollinger International Inc. executive and corporate counsel Mark S. Kipnis, in which Mr. Kipnis was charged with multiple counts of federal mail, wire and tax fraud stemming from a series of transactions involving the corporation. Following a 16-week trial and two weeks of deliberation, he was convicted of only three counts, one of which the judge dismissed post-trial. The trial team was later successful in obtaining a sentence of five years probation, reduced from a possible sentence that ranged from 30 to 78 months imprisonment. The United States Supreme Court later reversed the convictions and remanded the matter back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the criminal conviction of Mr. Kipnis and sent the case back to the trial court. In early 2011, the government dismissed with prejudice the remaining charges against him, fully exonerating him and clearing his record.
  • United States v. Mohammad Mohammed, et al. Ms. Holmes successfully tried this "bankruptcy bust-out" case, a first of its kind in the country. It involved the prosecution of a complex financial scheme to defraud creditors and violate income tax laws.
  • United States v. Castellanos, et al. Ms. Holmes successfully tried this matter, which was one of the largest multiple-defendant interstate narcotics conspiracy trials ever prosecuted in Rockford, Illinois. It involved a complex narcotics trafficking conspiracy, money laundering, and other federal violations.
  • United States v. Charles Emenogha. Ms. Holmes successfully tried this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case involving multiple defendants, complex conspiracy allegations, and the first-ever money-structuring charge brought by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • United States v. Carey Robinson. Ms. Holmes successfully tried this case, which was the first trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois charging a violation of the Mann Act.
  • People v. Vincent Williams, 124 Ill. 2d 300, 529 N.E. 2d 558, 124 Ill. Dec. 577 (1988). Ms. Holmes argued successfully before the Illinois Supreme Court in this matter, which established the state's right to make a timely written motion for substitution of a judge on the ground of prejudice.


"Attire: Your Most Overlooked Secret Weapon," (Chapter 4) in From the Trenches: Strategies and Tips from 21 of the Nation’s Top Trial Lawyers (2015)

"Be a Perry Mason, Not a Denny Crane," Chicago Daily Law Bulletin – Law Day 2013  (May 2013)

"Environmental Criminal Prosecutions: Avoid Being One of the EPA’s Next Victories," Governance & Executive Compensation 2011, Financier Worldwide (June 30, 2011)

"Protecting Your Company's Valuable Trade Secret Assets: Lessons Learned from Recent Federal Prosecutions of Criminal Trade Secrets Theft," Illinois MCLE Marathon 2011, Practising Law Institute (May 16, 2011)

"Litigation: Guilty Pleas Preview Testimony in Galleon Insider Trading Case," Inside Counsel (February 17, 2011)

"Corporate Officials Beware: Knowledge May No Longer Be Required for FCPA Liability," (co-author) Bloomberg Law Reports - Risk and Compliance (April 2010); Republished in Bloomberg Law Reports - Corporate Counsel (May 2010)

"Grease Payments are a Thing of the Past as the Reach of the FCPA Continues to Expand," (co-author) Bloomberg Law Reports - Risk and Compliance (March 2010)

"The Nuts and Bolts of Conducting an FCPA Internal Investigation," (co-author) Practising Law Institute (May 2008)

"Coping With Internal and Government Investigations," (co-author) American Bar Association's 30th Annual Forum on Franchising (October 2007)


"Identity Crisis: Navigating The Ethical Challenges Of Multiple Representation In An Internal Investigation," Corporate Law and Practice Course Handbook Series (June 2007)


"Compliance Programs: The First Step To Protect Against Employee Criminal Acts" (September 2006)


"Sleeping Through the Night — Tips to In-House Counsel To Avoid Personal Liability" (September 2006)


"Mandatory Waiver of Attorney Client Privilege: Cooperation or Coercion" (May 2006)


Speeches and Presentations

"Internal Investigations 2009: How to Protect Your Clients or Company – Concluding the Investigation," (panelist) "Contents of an Internal Investigation Report," (author) Practicing Law Institute (June 16, 2009)

"Avoiding the Knock on the Door: Current Enforcement Trends & Strategies in FCPA Compliance," (moderator and panelist) BDO Consulting Seminar (May 28, 2009)

"China's New Anti-Corruption Laws: Paper Tiger or Pouncing Dragon," (co-presenter) MCCA 11th Annual CLE Expo, Chicago, Ill. (March 22, 2012)

"Hot Topics and Recent Developments in Trade Secrets Law: Protecting Your Company's Key Assets," Illinois MCLE Marathon 2011, Practising Law Institute, Chicago, Ill. (May 16, 2011)

"What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You: Using Investigations to Protect Your Organization From Loss," Schiff Hardin Labor & Employment Breakfast Briefing, Chicago, Ill. (October 19, 2011)

"When It's Gets Personal: Advice to In-house Counsel on Avoiding Criminal and Civil Liability" ECOA’s 19th Annual Ethics and Compliance Conference Bellevue, Wash. (September 21, 2011)

"The Post-Madoff Era: Lessons Learned," (panelist) Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges Conference, Chicago Bar Association, Chicago, Ill. (October 9, 2009)

"Sleeping Through the Night: Practical Tips for Attorneys on Avoiding Personal Liability Related to Advising Healthcare Clients," Illinois Association of Healthcare Attorneys Quarterly Meeting (December 4, 2007)

"Parallel Investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission and Department of Justice: Counseling Corporate Clients Out of the Investigative Dragnet," ABA White Collar Crime Conference, Atlanta, Georgia (January 25, 2007)

"Direct & Cross Examinations," Chicago Bar Association Program: "Trial Superstars on Presenting Your Case: Winning Over the Court, The Jury and The Media," Chicago (November 16, 2006)

"Civility in the Profession," Chicago Bar Association Basic Skills Program: "Life After Law School," Chicago (October 27, 2006)

"Advice To In-House Counsel On Avoiding Criminal Liability," (panelist) "Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges Program," Chicago Bar Association and American Bar Association, Chicago (May 12, 2006)

"Sleeping Through The Night — Tips to In-House Counsel to Avoid Personal Liability," ABA Spring Minority Counsel Program, Seattle, Wash. (April 6, 2006)

"Civil Litigation: Employee Criminal Acts," Minority Corporate Council Association's 5th Annual CLE Expo, Chicago (March 16, 2006)

"Into the Forefront: The Current Role of Minority Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights," (moderator) "Our Mothers, Our Sisters, Our Daughters, Ourselves," ABA Multicultural Women Attorneys Network, Chicago (February 9, 2006)

Previous Experience

Ms. Holmes joined the firm after serving approximately nine years as an associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Prior to becoming a trial court judge, she served the City of Chicago as its Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for Municipal Prosecutions, supervising a staff of attorneys practicing in chancery and municipal courts. Earlier, Ms. Holmes honed her skills in federal court having tried more than 26 complex felony cases and argued numerous times before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. She also gained significant trial and appellate experience as an Assistant State's Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, arguing twice before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Awards and Honors

Advocate for Diversity Award, Diversity Scholarship Foundation (2011)
Benchmark Litigation — Star & Top 250 Women in Litigation
Best Lawyers in America — Commercial Litigation
Black Women Lawyers Association Visionary Award
BTI Client Service All-Star Team
2013 Business Leader of Color — Chicago United
2012 Distinguished Fellow Award — Leadership Greater Chicago
Earl Burrus Dickerson Award — Chicago Bar Association (2013)
Illinois Diversity Council – One of the Most Powerful and Influential Women in Illinois (2014)
Illinois Judicial Council Distinguished Service Award
Illinois Super Lawyers — General Litigation; Criminal Defense: White Collar; Government Relations; Top 50 Women Illinois Super Lawyers
Leading Lawyer — Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense: White Collar, Illinois Leading Lawyers Network
Leading Lawyer — Criminal Defense; Illinois Leading Lawyers Network Top 10 Women
Leading Lawyer — Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations, Chambers USA — America's Leading Lawyers for Business
AV Rated — Martindale-Hubbell
National Bar Association Judicial Council Special Chair Award
National Diversity Council — One of the Most Powerful and Influential Women of Illinois (2011)
University of Illinois
Seaberry Award for Service to the Legal Community
Outstanding Alumni Award for Public Service
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois/Federal Bar Association, Chicago Chapter — Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service
Who's Who in Black Chicago — Inaugural Edition


University of Illinois College of Law(J.D., 1986)
University of Illinois(B.S., 1983)

Teaching Appointments

Adjunct Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law
Adjunct Professor of Law, Loyola Institute for Paralegal Studies
Instructor, Attorney General's Advocacy Institute
Criminal Trial Advocacy Section of the U.S. Department of Justice

Professional Memberships

American Bar Association
Section of Litigation
Section of Business Law
            White Collar Crime Committee
Section of State and Local Government Law

Black Women Lawyers' Association of Greater Chicago, Inc.
Past President and Founder

The Chicago Inn of Court

Chicago Bar Association
Board of Managers
Blue Ribbon Committee on Juvenile Justice

Chief Judge James F. Holderman's Magistrate Judge Merit Review Panel

Cook County Bar Association

Governor Patrick Quinn's Cemetery Oversight Task Force Chair

Illinois Judicial Council Foundation

Illinois Judges Association
Co-Chair, Retired Judges Committee

Illinois State Bar Association

Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism Mentoring Advisory Committee

Just the Beginning Foundation, Inc.
Board of Directors

Lawyers Club of Chicago

Leadership Greater Chicago

Senator Richard Durbin's Bipartisan Screening Committee for Federal District Court Judges for the Northern District of Illinois

Senator Richard Durbin's Judicial Commission for the Northern District of Illinois

Seventh Circuit Bar Association
American Jury Project Commission

University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Civic and Charitable Memberships

LaRabida Children's Hospital
Board of Trustees