Central District Judge Confirmation

Mr. President, I rise in support of two of the nominees. I will vote for all three, but I rise in support of two of the nominees--Sue Myerscough and James Shadid for the Central District of Illinois. These are nominees whom I presented to the President and who passed through the review not only by the White House but also by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now come before us today to be considered by the Senate.


This day has come not a moment too soon for the Central District of Illinois, which I call home. It is a huge district. It covers 46 counties, includes the State capital, as well as cities such as Peoria, Urbana, and Rock Island. Since last August, the Central District of Illinois has had only one Federal district court judge out of four. There are supposed to be four and, unfortunately, three seats have been vacant. Those three vacancies were all designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.


The chief judge, and the only active judge not in senior status, of the district--Mike McCuskey, also one of my nominees--has done an amazing job keeping the judicial system running for the past 7 months. Mike, in years gone by, had had some health issues. They asked him whether there was anything they could do to relieve the stress he was facing, being the only judge out of four in the district. He said: Only the Senate can relieve this stress. Today, Mike McCuskey, we are going to do our best to relieve that stress and send two excellent new district court judges.


It hasn't been easy. Right now there are no active status judges in the Federal courthouses in Springfield and Peoria. Judge McCuskey, who is based in Urbana, has put a lot of miles on his car driving around this large district to keep the dockets moving. I salute him for his dedicated service, and I wish to also salute Judges Mike Mihm, Joe Billy McDade, Harold Baker, and Richard Mills, who stepped up to help out the district, despite some personal family and health challenges. They have stepped up, even though they are in senior status, to try to make sure the district was served.


I am pleased that help is on the way to the Central District of Illinois. I also wish to thank my colleague, Senator Mark Kirk, who has joined me in presenting these nominees to the Senate.


The first I wish to mention is a friend of mine for many years, Sue Myerscough. She has been prominent on the legal landscape of Springfield for many years. She has over 23 years of judicial experience and currently serves as an elected justice on the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court.


Justice Myerscough has been nominated to fill the Springfield-based judgeship that was vacated by the retirement of Judge Jeanne Scott, another one of my appointees who served that district so well.


Justice Myerscough is a Springfield native. She earned her bachelor's degree and law degree from Southern Illinois University. She began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge Harold Baker of the same Central District. Following her clerkship, she worked for 6 years in private practice.


Judge Myerscough was appointed as an associate judge of the Illinois Seventh Judicial Circuit in Springfield in 1987. In 1990, she was elected as a circuit judge for that court. During her 11 years as a trial judge, she presided over thousands of bench and jury trials, including some of the most complex civil litigation and murder trials. In 1988, Judge Myerscough was elected to her current seat on the Illinois appellate court and in 2008 won her retention election.


During her years on the appellate court, she has authored over 1,200 decisions on a wide range of issues. Justice Myerscough has worked to promote legal education for schoolchildren, and since 2001 she has served on the Board of Visitors for the Southern Illinois University Law School. She is an excellent judge, she is an excellent lawyer, she has a great family, and I am proud the President presented her name and the Senate will have a chance to vote on her today.


Jim Shadid is a leading figure in the Peoria legal community. He currently serves as a judge on the Tenth Judicial Circuit in Peoria County. He has been nominated to fill the Peoria-based Federal judgeship that was vacated when Judge Mihm took senior status.


Judge Shadid was born in Peoria and received his undergraduate degree from Bradley University. He was quite a baseball player for the Bradley Braves. He was a two-time team MVP and was inducted into the Bradley Athletics Hall of Fame. After graduation, he played a season of minor league baseball before he turned his talents to law and getting his J.D. from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.


He was first appointed as a circuit judge in 2001 and won retention elections in 2002 and 2008. He has presided over approximately 300 trials and thousands of additional pleas and sentencings. Prior to his service on the State bench, Judge Shadid worked as an attorney in private practice, as a part-time Peoria County public defender, as a part-time commissioner on the Illinois Court of Claims, and as an assistant attorney general in Illinois.


In addition to his broad legal experience, Judge Shadid has an impressive record of service to the Peoria community, including tenure as president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Peoria.


Judge Shadid was the first Arab American to serve as a State judge in Illinois. Upon his confirmation, he will be the only Arab-American Federal judge in the State and one of only a handful nationwide. There is a large Arab-American community in Peoria, including my friend, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood. I know this community and all of Peoria and Illinois will be so proud of Judge Shadid.


Both Justice Myerscough and Judge Shadid were unanimously reported by the Judiciary Committee last month, and in a short time the Senate will take up their nominations. I hope my colleagues will agree that the people of Illinois will be well served with these two fine individuals on the bench.


We will still have one vacancy, when these two are approved. Fortunately, President Obama has nominated another excellent candidate to fill that vacancy. Sara Darrow is a distinguished Federal prosecutor, whom I was pleased to recommend to the White House. I look forward to working with my colleague, Senator Kirk, to consider her nomination in an expedited fashion.


Also working with Senator Kirk, we have a bipartisan agreement in terms of filling all vacancies, and Senator Kirk is in the process now of choosing a judge to fill one of the vacancies in the Northern District of Illinois.


Last year, the Senate confirmed three excellent judges for the Northern District: Judge Gary Feinerman, Judge Sharon Coleman, and Judge Ed Chang. I might mention that Judge Chang had been recommended by the Republican Selection Committee the year before, and I found him to be an excellent candidate. Party aside, he is going to serve very well and is now serving on the Northern District. Senator Kirk and I will continue to work together to find excellent judges for that Northern District.


In conclusion, as we proceed toward this evening's votes, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the nominations of Sue Myerscough and Jim Shadid. They will make superb Federal judges in a district that desperately needs their service on the bench