Sir John Holt, an English jurist, born at Thame, Oxfordshire, Dec. 30, 1642, died in March, 1709. Ho was educated at Oxford, became a student of law, was called to the bar in 1663, and rose to eminence as an advocate. In 1686 he was elected recorder of London, but was removed at the expiration of a year and a half in consequence of his opposition to the measures of the court. In the convention parliament which met to arrange the succession to the crown, after the departure of James II., he displayed so much ability that William III. appointed him in April, 1689, chief justice of the king's bench, which office he retained until his death. In 1700 he was solicited to accept the great seal, upon the removal of Lord Somers from the office of chancellor, but declined. Of his integrity, courage, and firmness in the discharge of his duties, a traditional instance is related upon the occasion of a summons from the commons to appear at their bar, for deciding in favor of the Aylesbury burgesses, who had been committed for complaining about the illegal rejection of their votes.
He took no notice of the first message from the house; and upon being summoned by the speaker in person, he told that officer to return at once to his chair, or he would commit him to Newgate. The reports of his decisions, compiled by his pupil and successor, Chief Justice Raymond, commencing with the Easter term, 6 William and Mary, give a good impression of his judicial abilities. Sir John Holt published in 1708 a folio volume of crown cases collected by Chief Justice Kelyng, with Dotes and three of his own decisions.