Durbin Announces Bipartisan Screening Committees for Federal Judges, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin today announced the formation of three bipartisan screening committees to assist in selecting Federal District Court Judges, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals for the State of Illinois. The committees will be based in the Northern, Central, and Southern Districts of Illinois.


The screening committees will be comprised of 22 distinguished Illinoisans drawn from various aspects of the legal profession and include former judges, prominent litigators, law professors, bar association leaders, former prosecutors and defenders. Former federal judge and Illinois Congressman Abner Mikva will chair the Northern District Screening Panel; Sheila Simon, SIU law professor and daughter of the late Sen. Paul Simon, will chair the Southern District Screening Panel and prominent Springfield attorney James Potter will serve as chairman of the Central District Screening Panel. (A complete list and short bios of all panel members is included below.)


“Making recommendations to the White House on U.S. Attorneys, federal marshals and judicial nominees is one of the most important jobs I have as a U.S. Senator, and I am particularly pleased that these outstanding Illinoisans have agreed to advise me in selecting the best possible candidates to recommend to President Obama,” said Durbin.


Durbin, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, is the senior senator from Illinois. The senior senator from the President’s political party has traditionally had the lead role in making recommendations to the President for the positions of Federal District Court Judge, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshal in the senator’s home state. Similar screening panels were used during the Clinton Presidency.


The immediate task of the screening committees is to review applications and make recommendations to Senator Durbin for three Federal District Court Judge positions in the Northern District; the U.S. Attorney positions in the Central District and Southern District; and the U.S. Marshal positions in all three Districts.


Applications for these positions are available on Senator Durbin’s website (https://www.durbin.senate.gov/issues/crime.cfm). The application questionnaires (one for judicial applicants and one for executive branch applicants such as U.S. Marshals and U.S. Attorneys) are nearly identical to those used by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will help provide insight into potential nominees’ backgrounds and qualifications. The deadline for submission of completed applications is May 11, 2009.


The screening committees will review the applications, interview applicants and references, and make recommendations to Senator Durbin as quickly as possible. The screening committees will recommend the names of several individuals to Senator Durbin for each vacancy.


Durbin will review the screening committees’ recommendations, conduct interviews of finalists, and – in consultation with the junior senator from Illinois and the Republican delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives – submit his recommendations to the President, who will make the final decisions on nominees.


Once the President submits a nomination to the U.S. Senate, the nominee will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Durbin is a member and will ultimately receive a vote in the committee. If a nomination is approved by the Judiciary Committee, the nominee will receive a vote by the full Senate.


The average length of time between date of nomination and date of confirmation for Federal District Court Judge nominees is approximately six months. U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal nominees are typically confirmed more quickly because they do not require a formal confirmation hearing.


Biographical descriptions of members of the screening panels named by Senator Durbin include:


Northern District Committee Members


Abner Mikva (chair). Judge Mikva has served as White House Counsel to the President, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and an Illinois state legislator. He recently served as the director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. He has received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association and the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award from the University of Illinois.


Demetrius Carney. Mr. Carney is a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie. He is the president of the Chicago Police Board and a former commissioner for the City of Chicago's Plan Commission. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America publication.


Paul Cicero. Mr. Cicero is a partner at the law firm of Cicero & France in Rockford, where he has practiced law for 35 years. He is a former president and director of the Winnebago County Bar Association, former assemblyman of the Illinois State Bar Association, and a fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation. He has also served as a Trustee of the University of Illinois.


Fay Clayton. Ms. Clayton is a founding partner at the law firm of Robinson Curley & Clayton. She is the past president of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and served on the executive committee of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She argued and won a unanimous ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court in a RICO case, and she was named one of “Chicago’s Thirty Toughest Lawyers” by Chicago Magazine.


Philip Corboy, Jr. Mr. Corboy is a partner at the law firm of Corboy & Demetrio. He is president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, president of the board of directors of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, former board member of the Chicago Bar Association, and member of the dean’s council of DePaul University law school. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America and Illinois Super Lawyers publications.


Kevin Forde. Mr. Forde has his own law practice in Chicago. He is a past president of the Chicago Bar Association, board chair of the Federal Defender Program in the Northern District of Illinois, counsel to the Federal Judges Association, and chair of the Illinois Compensation Review Board. He served as a law clerk to Judge William Campbell in the Northern District of Illinois. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America and Illinois Super Lawyers publications.


Patricia Holmes. Ms. Holmes is a partner at the law firm of Schiff Hardin, where she heads the white collar crime group. She previously served as a former state trial judge, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County, and Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. She served as president of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago and on the Chicago Bar Association board of managers. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the “Top 50 Women Lawyers” by Illinois Super Lawyers.


Betty Jang. Ms. Jang is legal counsel and director at CVS Caremark in Northbrook. Previously she served as senior counsel at the McDonald’s Corporation, a litigator at Hinshaw & Culbertson, an attorney with the Cook County Public Defender, and an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois law school. She was listed in “20 Women Who Make a Difference” in the Minorities & Women in Business Magazine and in “Best Lawyers Under 40” by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and received the Young Lawyer of the Year award from the Illinois State Bar Association.


Michele Ruiz. Ms. Ruiz is a partner at the law firm of Sidley Austin, and she was named one of “40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch” by the publisher of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Chicago Lawyer magazine. She was selected as a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow, and she received the 10th annual Latino Community Donor Award by Latinos in Development and Chicago Latinos in Philanthropy. She has served as co-chair of the Alliance of Latinos and Jews.


Diana White. Ms. White is the executive director of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, where she received the Equal Justice Award. Previously she was a partner at Jenner & Block and a law clerk to Judge Walter Cummings on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.


Southern District Committee Members


Sheila Simon (chair). Ms. Simon has been a law professor at Southern Illinois University since 2000. She previously worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Jackson County, an attorney at the law firm of O’Neill and Colvin, a staff attorney at the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, and a member of the Carbondale City Council. She serves on the Illinois Reform Commission and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and she chairs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Board of Counselors.


Frederick Hess. Mr. Hess is a litigator at the law firm of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh in Belleville. He served as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Illinois from 1982-1993, and he is the director and past president of the National Association of Former United States Attorneys. He has also served as a judge on the Illinois Court of Claims, director of the St. Clair County Bar Association, Belleville city attorney, member of the Shiloh Police Commission, and secretary of the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority.


Thomas Keefe, Jr. Mr. Keefe is a prominent personal injury attorney in southern Illinois, where he has practiced law for over 30 years. He recently received the Chief Judge Richard Hudlin Memorial Award from the St. Clair County Bar Association for his legal accomplishments and contributions, and he was named “2008 Person of the Year” by the Madison St. Clair Record. He has served on the Illinois Bar Foundation board of directors and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association board of managers.


Emily Kirk. Ms. Kirk is an attorney at the law firm of SimmonsCooper, where she helped establish the business litigation department. She previously served as Counsel for Sen. Dick Durbin in Washington where she worked on civil service, homeland security, and food safety issues. She serves on the boards of the Illinois YMCA Youth & Government Program and the Discovery School in O’Fallon.


Dianne Meeks. Ms. Meeks is the co-founder of One Village, an organization that provides arts and literature workshops for children. She is also the Assistant Coordinator of the Career Preparation Program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where she serves on the SIUC Foundation’s board of directors and president’s council.


Alexis Otis Lewis. Ms. Lewis served as an Associate Judge for the State of Illinois in the 20th Judicial Circuit for nearly 17 years, retiring in December 2008. Earlier in her career, she served as a prosecutor in the St. Clair State’s Attorney’s Office and as the first pro se law clerk for the Southern District of Illinois federal court in East St. Louis.


Central District Committee Members


James Potter (chair). Mr. Potter is a partner at the law firm of Londrigan, Potter & Randle and is past president of the Springfield chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is on the board of trustees of Knox College and the Springfield YMCA, and he serves on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region, Prairie State Bank & Trust, and Farmers State Bank & Trust of Fulton County.


Clarence Darrow. Mr. Darrow has his own law practice in Rock Island. He previously served as a Circuit Court Judge for the State of Illinois in the 14th Judicial Circuit and was chief judge of the domestic relations division. Prior to his judicial service, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate and Illinois House of Representatives.


Robert Eggers. Mr. Eggers served as a Circuit Court Judge and Associate Judge for the State of Illinois in the 7th Judicial Circuit for over 17 years. He previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Central District of Illinois, a prosecutor in the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office, and president of the Sangamon County Bar Association.


Donald Jackson. Mr. Jackson has his own law practice in Peoria. He previously worked as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and the Peoria County Public Defender, and he has been an instructor at Bradley University. Mr. Jackson serves as president of the Peoria branch of the NAACP and president of the NAACP Illinois State Conference.


Stacey Lynch. Ms. Lynch is an attorney at the Dorris Law Firm in Bloomington, where she specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice. She is active in numerous bar associations and is a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.


Lucinda Awerkamp McClain. Ms. McClain is a partner at the Quincy law firm of Awerkamp & McClain, where she has worked for over 30 years. She has served as director of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and director of the Large District Council of the Illinois Association of School Boards. She has served as board president or member of many community organizations including Quincy University, the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area, Quincy Public Library, and the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce.