Born and raised in the small farm community of Amherst, Nebraska (population 231), Jodi Hoos grew up with three older brothers who taught her all about sports and the outdoors—things she enjoys to this day. At the age of 12, her father was killed in a car accident, leaving her mother as the family’s sole means of support. It took three years and a jury trial for a wrongful death claim to bring some balance back to a family shattered by the tragedy. That trial, where Jodi was called as a witness, changed her life forever. Outside that courthouse, she knew her career would be spent inside of one.
After graduating as high school valedictorian, she attended the University of Nebraska – Kearney, where she was a four-year starter on the softball team, winning three Conference titles and twice reaching the Division II National Championships Elite 8. She graduated magna cum laude in 1997 with a degree in political science, received her juris doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law, and settled in Peoria in 2000.
As a prosecutor with the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office, Hoos tried more than 125 jury trials and prosecuted more than 40 murder cases—one of which became the basis for an episode of NBC’s Dateline. In 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed her as Peoria County Circuit Judge, where she handled civil cases involving personal injury and medical malpractice claims. On September 1, 2019, she was sworn in as Peoria County State’s Attorney—the first woman to ever hold this position. Hoos is married with two daughters, ages three and 18 months.
- Words to live by: A prosecutor is about doing the right thing, not the popular thing.
- Favorite meal: Family breakfasts on the weekend.
- Do you collect anything unique? In law school, for every final exam I would take something in my pocket related to that particular class for good luck. For example, in Property class I took a few blades of grass; in Income Tax class I took a dollar bill; in Criminal Law I took a pocket knife (which I would not recommend today!). I have them all in a keepsake box that I look at often to remind me how I got where I am today.
- Secret ambition: To become a pilot.
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My height. I’m 5’4”. All my brothers are 6’3”. We are a huge sports family. Being short is usually not a good thing in athletics.
- If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? I love children—I would have lots more.
- What song always makes you happy when you hear it? “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. I mean, come on, if that doesn’t make you want to get up and jump around, then I don’t know what ever would.
- What do you do when you want to relax? Bow hunt. I love the peace and quiet of nature. I could sit in a treestand all day, even if I never saw a deer.
- Have you ever been told you look like somebody famous? Yes. Jodie Foster. I don’t see it. I think it’s because we have the same name.
- What book do you think everyone should read? Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Let’s face it, there will come a time for us all when we are no longer in need of our bodies. This is a humorous look at ”the end,” and how human cadavers have helped science throughout history. PM