Illinois Judges Association

Pro Bono Spotlight - August 2023

This month, the Illinois Judges Pro Bono Committee is spotlighting a judge who has focused on giving a voice to the underrepresented throughout the entirety of his legal career, the Honorable Julio César Valdez.

Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Judge Valdez and his family immigrated to Elgin when he was just 4 years old.  His relentless work ethic was instilled by his parents as his father worked 2 full-time jobs to support the family and his mother tirelessly tended to raising the children and the related household duties.   As the 8th of 9 children, he found his voice at a very young age out of necessity.  He became very skilled at stating and effectively arguing his positions and decided to pursue a career in the law. 

After attending Larkin High School and Augustana College, Judge Valdez attended the University of Iowa and obtained his Juris Doctor.  While in Iowa, Judge Valdez participated in the pro bono legal clinic run by the law school.  He served as the University of Iowa Bar Association president and even returned to his birthplace to complete a summer internship at the University of Guanajuato.  Although away from home to complete his education, Judge Valdez always knew that he wanted to return to the Elgin area to be close to family and to take on representation of the largely underprivileged, Spanish-speaking community nearby.

For the first 8 years of practice, Judge Valdez was employed at several Elgin-area law firms.  During this time, he established himself as a pillar of the community and handled many different types of matters including Worker’s Compensation, Personal Injury, Real Estate, Family Law, Criminal Law and Immigration.   When the opportunity presented itself, Judge Valdez seized the moment and went out on his own.  He worked as a Sole Practitioner for 13 years before he was appointed to the bench.    

While in private practice, Judge Valdez continued to make himself known within the Elgin community.  He served on the Board of Directors and oversaw the legal department for Centro de Informacion, an agency that provides legal services for immigration matters.  He was involved with the Elgin Hispanic Network, an organization that focuses on business networking within the Hispanic community.  Outside of these law-related endeavors, Judge Valdez has served on the Board of Directors for Elgin Community Bikes, a non-profit organization that focuses on bicycle commuting and safety and also prides itself on introducing children to bike riding.  He has also been very involved in the First United Methodist Church in Elgin, and continues to be while on the bench.  

In December, 2019, Judge Valdez achieved a long-time goal and was appointed as an Associate Judge in Kane County and was assigned to the Aurora Branch Court.  Just 3 short months later, the Covid-19 pandemic shut the court system down.  Judge Valdez played an instrumental role in developing policies and procedures for Zoom court to ensure that the backlog in cases was no worse than absolutely necessary.  To this day, Judge Valdez is viewed as a Zoom guru by his fellow Kane County judges and it is not uncommon for him to remotely hear multiple court calls simultaneously.  

On August 16, 2022, Judge Valdez was appointed as a Circuit Judge by the Supreme Court and began presiding over the Elgin Branch Court.  Incredibly, his current assignment is just 4 blocks away from the home that his family moved into when he initially came to the United States!  That home is still occupied by his family and Judge Valdez feels incredibly blessed and thankful to now be sitting where he and his siblings grew up.  

As a sitting judge, Judge Valdez prioritizes removing the perceived veil between the judiciary and the community.  When not spending time with his wife and two sons, Judge Valdez continues to participate in as many Elgin-area activities as he can.  He currently hosts an informational booth at the Elgin Farmers Market and enjoys communicating and continuing to network with Spanish-speaking residents.  As part of the IJA’s Reading in Schools initiative, Judge Valdez had the privilege of reading to students at multiple schools including Century Oaks Elementary School, his alma mater.  He has also spoken to various Boys & Girls Clubs and looks forward to any opportunity to deliver his message to young people that dreams can be accomplished with hard work and dedication. 

The Pro Bono Committee wants to thank Judge Valdez for all of his efforts in making his community a better place!