Judge Matthew F. Kennelly

2021 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA–Judge Matthew F. Kennelly has been selected to receive the 2021 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit. Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998, Kennelly has been a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois since 1999.

"In that time, he has conducted some of the most complex trials on the court's docket and has ruled on literally thousands of motions," says Judge Richard Linn of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, who nominated Kennelly for the award. "He is universally considered to be one of the smartest judges on his court."

After law school, Kennelly served in private practice and then clerked for Judge Prentice Marshall of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Before becoming a judge, he worked in private practice again, representing both individuals and corporations in civil and criminal cases.

As a judge, Kennelly has served as the Seventh Circuit's representative on the Information Technology Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States and was a member of the Information Technology Advisory Committee of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. He is a member of the Seventh Circuit's Criminal Jury Instruction Committee and its Civil Jury Instruction Committee. Since 2019, he has been a member of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. He also chairs a committee of district judges and lawyers that drafted and periodically updates the local rules for patent infringement cases in the Northern District of Illinois. When the pandemic disrupted court proceedings, Kennelly urged the chief judge to create a Restart Task Force to reopen safely and now chairs that group.

Kennelly is a founding member and former president of the Richard Linn American Inn of Court and a long-time member of the Chicago Inn of Court. He has been a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 1999, before his appointment to the bench. In 1996, he received the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award, a Public Interest Law Initiative citation for distinguished public service, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s community/public service award. In 1993, the Federal Bar Association’s Chicago chapter gave him its Walter J. Cummings Award for excellence in advocacy.

Kennelly earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1978 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1981.