Judge Julius Hoffman, a seventy-four-year-old former law partner of Richard J. Daley, presided over the conspiracy trial of the Chicago Seven. His courtroom became a "ruckus of insults, disrespect and obscenities."
Hoffman did not hide his distaste for the defendants or their defense attorneys. Judge Hoffman seemed "determined to do everything in his power to guarantee convictions on every count of the indictment." Rarely could he pass up an opportunity to lecture a defense witness or criticize a defense tactic or motion. "When this otherwise rather urbane and witty man stooped to conquer, his forehead frequently touched the ground." Another observer noted, "the Judge used every Machiavellian tactic at his disposal to undermine [the defense's] case." In addition to insults, the judge refused to allow unoccupied defense lawyers to leave the courtroom to interview witnesses, prohibited many defense witnesses from taking the stand and, after the prosecution rested, insisted on Saturday sessions. Judge Hoffman's efforts were in vain, however, as he was later scolded by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed all of the convictions.
Judge Hoffman began the trial by having four of the defense's pretrial lawyers arrested and thrown in jail for a night for not appearing in court. He insisted that William Kunstler was Bobby Seale's attorney despite Kunstler's having filed a formal withdrawal and Seale having fired him for good measure. (Hoffman had refused to delay the trial to allow Seale's counsel of choice to recover from gallbladder surgery). After the Judge repeatedly prevented Seale from acting as his own counsel, Seale called the Judge "a pig, an fascist and a racist." Hoffman had Seale bound, gagged, and chained to a chair for the duration of Seale's connection with the trial.
Judge Hoffman became the favorite courtroom target of the Chicago Seven defendants, who frequently would insult the judge to his face. Abbie Hoffman told Hoffman "you are a disgrace to the Jews. You would have served Hitler better." He later added that "your idea of justice is the only obscenity in the room." Both Davis and Rubin told the Judge "this court is bullshit." After the Judge had read him his thirty two counts of contempt, Dellinger responded, "it is a travesty of justice and if you had any sense at all you would know that the record you read condemns you and not us." Hayden described the Judge as "a perfect representative of a class of dinosaurs that is vengefully striking out against the future."
At the end of the five-month trial, Judge Hoffman issued over 200 citations for contempt of court against the defendants and their attorneys.
Judge Hoffman died in 1983 at the age of 87.