John L. Holahan
Originally published in the May/June 1995 issue.
Author: Richard A. Williams, Jr.
Judge John L. Holahan Jr. is a man uniquely equipped by temperament, experience, and outlook to be a judge. He has a broad and extensive background in civil and criminal litigation acquired while a private practitioner. He also has an understanding of the administrative aspects of the judicial system and a commitment to public service. Just as important, however, is his experience with the life events that affect all people. It has given him a perspective on human nature that blends compassion with responsibility and accountability.
John Holahan graduated from St. Cloud State University in 1970 with a degree in marketing. He worked as a court clerk in Hennepin County Municipal Court in the civil traffic and criminal divisions while attending William Mitchell Law School. From 1972 to 1975, he was a law clerk to Judge Patrick Fitzgerald and Judge Andrew Danielson, now two of his fellow judges on the Hennepin County District Court.
Between the time he left the court in 1975 to enter into private law practice and when he returned in 1995 after being appointed to the court by Gov. Arne Carlson, John Holahan distinguished himself as a citizen and as a lawyer. While in private practice, both as a solo practitioner and in group practice, John Holahan concentrated in the areas of criminal defense and domestic relations law. He was recognized by his peers for his skill and resourcefulness as a representative of his clients. At the same time, he was active in bar activities and professional associations including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Bar Association, and the Minnesota State Bar Association.
In addition to his varied experience as a trial lawyer, John Holahan brings to the bench a lifelong commitment to community service. He has been a church volunteer, scout leader, and coach. As a result of experience within his own family, he has worked as a Cansurmount volunteer at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He is also on the Patient/ Family Advisory Group at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute. He has been involved in other public service such as speaking at community resource centers. He was appointed to the Minnesota Ethical Practices Board in 1993 and became chair of the board in 1994.
The same deep-seated commitment to public service that characterizes his personal life is reflected in his service to his profession. He is a past president and board member of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, an organization dedicated to providing support and service to lawyers with drug and alcohol-related problems. He has been a lecturer and speaker on chemical dependency and alcoholism. As part of his commitment to maintaining the quality of the profession, he has been a volunteer attorney supervisor for the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board.
While a practicing attorney, Judge Holahan always viewed the law as an instrument to resolve conflict rather than to perpetuate it. He was a co-founder, vice president, and board member of the Collaborative Law Institute—a nonprofit corporation composed of lawyers committed to resolving divorce cases by negotiation rather than litigation. As part of that commitment, Judge Holahan acted as a mediator in family matters and was a member of the Academy of Family Mediators. He also served as a volunteer family court settlement referee in Hennepin County District Court.
John Holahan’s contribution to the community and his profession is demonstrated by the wide range of support he received from diverse segments of the community when Governor Carlson was looking for candidates to fill vacancies on the Hennepin County District Court. Judge Holahan’s support came from virtually all elements of the public and profession. Prominent educators, business people, and public officials favored his appointment. Members of the state Legislature, as well as a member of Congress, encouraged his selection. Lawyers representing virtually all areas of practice and ranging from solo practitioners to members of large law firms supported his appointment.
Judge Holahan has participated in the judicial process from the inside and from the outside. He brings to the Hennepin County District Court a broad range of experience in resolving disputes both in and out of the courtroom. Most importantly, however, Judge Holahan brings to the bench common sense and a sensitivity to the people who come before the court, whether as litigants, lawyers, or witnesses. Judge Holahan’s character is best summarized by one of his clients who says, "I just wanted to say thank you for your legal assistance. But more importantly for being so kind when I was a complete wreck. I won’t forget your kindness . . . you’re a good person, John L. Holahan, and I’m glad I met you." I am also glad that I met John L. Holahan and that he is a friend. I am particularly pleased to be able to officially introduce the Hon. John L. Holahan Jr. to the membership of the Hennepin County Bar Association.