Durbin Forwards Recommendations for Federal Judges in the Northern District to the White House

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Based on recommendations made by a bipartisan screening committee, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today forwarded a list of names to the White House for consideration when filling vacant judgeships on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  Durbin forwarded the names of the following seven individuals to President Obama for consideration: Jorge Alonso, Michael Brody, Sara Ellis, Caryn Jacobs, Patricia Martin, Mary Smith and Andrea Wood.


“One of the most important jobs I have as a U.S. Senator is recommending candidates to fill federal judicial vacancies in Illinois,” said Durbin. “The screening committee I set up last year worked diligently to evaluate each application and recommend applicants they thought were particularly noteworthy.  After meeting personally with the recommended applicants, I am honored to forward the names of seven well-qualified individuals with proven track records to President Obama.  Each of them would make an outstanding nominee for federal district court judge if selected.”


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. There are currently three judicial vacancies on the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 


During the Clinton Presidency, Durbin worked closely with Senator Peter Fitzgerald to ensure that highly qualified candidates for federal judgeships were nominated by the President with bipartisan support in order to secure their confirmation.  Before making recommendations to President Obama, Durbin consulted with the office of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) who has established a similar selection process in the Northern District.


“Without bipartisan effort in the Senate, it is very difficult to secure the confirmation of even the best qualified judicial nominees,” Durbin said.  “I thank Senator Kirk for working with me to carry on Illinois’ tradition of bipartisanship when it comes to judicial nominations and to ensure that these Northern District vacancies are filled without delay.”


Durbin’s screening committee was comprised of 13 distinguished Illinoisans drawn from various aspects of the legal profession including former judges, prominent litigators, bar association leaders, and former prosecutors and defenders.  The committee was co-chaired by Dick Devine, former Cook County State’s Attorney and current partner at the law firm of Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson LLP, and Patricia Brown Holmes, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and a partner at the law firm of Schiff Hardin.


The screening committee reviewed the applications, interviewed applicants and references, and recommended the names of several individuals to Durbin.   Durbin reviewed the screening committee’s recommendations, conducted interviews of the finalists, and submitted 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. 


Biographical descriptions of those recommended by Durbin today follow (all names are listed in alphabetical order):


Jorge Alonso – Judge Alonso has served as an Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County since 2003.  He currently serves in the Criminal Division and also presides over a specialty court program for women with mental illness in the criminal justice system.  He previously worked for over eleven years as an Assistant Public Defender in the Office of the Cook County Public Defender.  He is a graduate of the George Washington University Law School.  Judge Alonso lives in Park Ridge. 


Michael Brody – Mr. Brody is a partner in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block, where he has worked since 1984. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association.  He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, where he served on the law review and where he has taught a seminar on class action litigation for the past decade.  He served as a judicial law clerk to then-Judge Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  Mr. Brody lives in Evanston.


Sara Ellis – Ms. Ellis has worked as a counsel at Schiff Hardin in Chicago since 2008.  Previously she served for six years as a staff attorney for the Federal Defender Program in Chicago, for three years as an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the City of Chicago Department of Law, and in private practice at Stetler & Duffy in Chicago.  She graduated from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she has taught as an adjunct professor.  Ms. Ellis lives in Chicago.


Caryn Jacobs – Ms. Jacobs is currently a partner in the Chicago office of Winston & Strawn, where she has worked since 2010.  Previously she served for over five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and worked for about seventeen years at Mayer Brown in Chicago, having become a partner there in 1994.  She served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Susan Getzendanner of the Northern District of Illinois.  She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School.   Ms. Jacobs lives in Evanston.  


Patricia Martin – Judge Martin has served as a judge in Circuit Court of Cook County since 1996.  Since 2000, she has been the Presiding Judge in the Child Protection Division, and she previously served as a judge in the Law Division and in the Child Protection Division.  She worked in the Office of the Cook County Public Defender from 1986-1996, ultimately serving as Deputy Chief of the Fifth Municipal District.  She is a graduate of the Northern Illinois University College of Law.  Judge Martin lives in Chicago.


Mary Smith – Ms. Smith is currently the General Counsel of the Illinois Department of Insurance, where she has served since 2012.   She worked as a Counselor in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010-2012, where she had also previously served as a trial attorney.  She served on the White House Domestic Policy Council from 1997-1999 and as an Associate Counsel in the White House Counsel’s Office in 2000.  She has also worked as a senior litigation counsel at Tyco International and in private practice.  She is a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law, and served as a judicial law clerk for Judge R. Lanier Anderson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.  Ms. Smith lives in Lansing. 


Andrea Wood – Ms. Wood has served as a Senior Trial Counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Chicago since 2007.  Previously she worked as an attorney in the SEC Division of Enforcement and in private practice at Kirkland & Ellis.  She served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Diane Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.  She is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School, where she served on the law review.  Ms. Wood lives in Chicago.


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