Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner was the first woman appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the 101-year history of the Circuit. Born in Riga, Latvia and raised in Philadelphia, she attended Bryn Mawr College and studied law at King's College-University of London, Georgetown University, and Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Following a term as law clerk to the late James B. Parsons, Judge of the Northern District of Illinois, she joined the United States Attorney's Office in Chicago in 1973. There she became the first woman supervisor in the history of the office, and as Chief of the Public Protection Unit, was responsible for all civil rights, consumer fraud and voter fraud litigation in the Northern District. She served as one of the chief trial attorneys in both of the landmark United States v. City of Chicago employment discrimination cases. Between 1975 and 1977, she received the Department of Justice's Special Commendation Award and its Special Achievement Award, the Annual National Law and Social Justice Leadership Award of the League to Improve the Community, and the Annual Guardian Police Award (of which she was the first female recipient).
In 1977, she left the U.S. Attorney's Office to become Deputy Governor and legal counsel to Governor James R. Thompson of Illinois. During her time in that office, she wrote the governor's Executive Order banning sexual harassment in the workplace and oversaw the creation of the Governor's Office for Interagency Cooperation and the new Department of Human Rights. She was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 1984, and to the United States Court of Appeals in 1992.
Among the awards presented to her have been the Chicago Bar Association Defense of Prisoners Committee Award, Brandeis University's Brandeis Medal for Distinguished Legal Service, Valparaiso University School of Law's First Women Award, the Women's Bar Association of Illinois' Myra Bradwell Award, the Decalogue Society of Lawyers Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Association of Women Lawyers Arabella Babb Mansfield Award, the Women's Bar Association of Illinois/Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women First Woman Award, the Chicago Historical Society's Trailblazer Award, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and Chicago Bar Association Vanguard Award, the Jewish Judges' Association of Illinois Lifetime Achievement Award, honorary degrees from Mundelein College, Rosary College of Dominican University, Spertus College of Judaica, and John Marshall Law School, the Chicago Bar Association's inaugural Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Mentoring Award, the National Liberty Museum's Hero of Liberty Award, the Chicago Bar Association's Justice John Paul Stevens Award, the Association of Corporate Counsel's Thurgood Marshall Award, the B'nai Brith International "Chicago Woman of Valor" Award, the American Inns of Court Seventh Circuit Professionalism Award, American Constitution Society "Legal Legends of Chicago" Award, Northwestern University Jewish Law Students Association Lifetime Achievement Award, The Virginia Law Foundation and The Virginia Holocaust Museum Rule of Law Award, The Court of Honor of Distinguished Daughters of the Philadelphia High School for Girls the Chicago Foundation for Women 2012 Impact Award, the 125 Alumni of Distinction of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the Carnegie Foundation's Great Immigrant Award, and the Women's Bar Association of Illinois' Myra Bradwell Award. She was the inaugural speaker for the Illinois Attorney General's Office Distinguished Judge Series CLE Program.
In 2001, Judge Rovner was honored by Georgetown University Law Center as the first of its female students to be appointed to a United States Court of Appeals. The Chicago-Kent Alumni Association awarded her its Professional Achievement Award in 1986, and in 1992, the College inaugurated the Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Program and Moot Court Competition. The Ilana Diamond Rovner Scholarship was established by Chicago-Kent and the Decalogue Foundation in 1998.