Durbin Introduces Bruce, Ellis & Wood at Senate Committee Hearing on Illinois Judicial Nominations

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today chaired a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, on President Obama’s nomination of Sara Ellis and Andrea Wood to fill vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and President Obama’s nomination of Colin Bruce to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court in the Central District of Illinois that will open up on June 30th.  Their nominations are expected to receive votes in the committee within the next few weeks.  If approved, their nominations will receive votes by the full Senate.


“Each of these nominees is dedicated to public service and has gained a wealth of experience. I commend President Obama for sending these nominees to the Senate,” said Durbin.  “In Illinois, we have established a bipartisan process for recommending judicial nominations to the White House, and I look forward to working with Senator Kirk to see these nominations confirmed.” 


In order to make recommendations for judicial vacancies in the Northern District, Durbin established a screening committee in August 2012 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. 


In order to make recommendations for judicial vacancies in the Central District, Durbin established a screening committee in April 2009 comprised of several distinguished Illinoisans also drawn from various aspects of the legal profession.  Springfield attorney James Potter served as chairman of the screening panel.


After holding several meetings, reviewing the applications and conducting interviews, the screening committees recommended the names of several individuals for each vacancy.  Durbin reviewed the screening committees’ recommendations, conducted interviews of finalists, and last fall, in consultation with members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, submitted the names of seven individuals to the President, who made the final decisions on nominees. 


The text of Durbin’s remarks as prepared are below:


Colin Bruce Introduction


Our first Illinois nominee today is Colin Stirling Bruce, who has been nominated to fill the judicial vacancy that will open up in Urbana when Judge Michael McCuskey takes senior status at the end of this month.


Mr. Bruce has served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois since 1989.  He currently serves as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney, a position he has held since 2010.  In his current capacity, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and helps supervise all of the federal criminal investigations, prosecutions and appeals in the district.  He also supervises all civil defensive and affirmative litigation in the district in which the United States is a party. 


Mr. Bruce was born in Urbana and received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Illinois.  After law school he went straight to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  He began by handling both criminal and civil cases, including bankruptcy matters and tort claims filed against the government.


Mr. Bruce then shifted to prosecuting complex criminal matters, including drug and fraud cases.  Over the years, Mr. Bruce also developed particular expertise in cybercrime investigations and prosecutions.  In 2007, he was appointed Branch Chief of the Urbana Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office, where he supervised five other AUSAs while also keeping a full caseload himself.  Finally, in 2010 he was named First Assistant U.S. Attorney, the number two position in the office.  


Mr. Bruce has received numerous recognitions for his work, including certifications of appreciation from the Justice Department, FBI and DEA, as well as awards from the Illinois State Police and the Metropolitan Enforcement Group and Task Force.


Mr. Bruce has a record of giving back to the Urbana community through his association with charities such as the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross and Imagine No Malaria, a charity that purchases mosquito nets for families in Africa. 


Mr. Bruce is joined today by his wife Martha, his son Duncan and daughter Katherine, and by his parents Kenneth and Rosalind.  I welcome you all. 


Sara Ellis Introduction


Our next nominee is Sara Lee Ellis.  Ms. Ellis has been nominated to the Chicago judgeship that was formally occupied by Judge Joan Gottschall.


Ms. Ellis currently works at the law firm Schiff Hardin in Chicago, where she handles white collar criminal matters, complex civil litigation, and corporate counseling.  


Ms. Ellis was born in Ontario, Canada to parents who emigrated from Jamaica, and she moved to the United States and became a citizen at age 15.  She received her undergraduate degree from Indiana University and her law degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. 


After law school, Ms. Ellis joined the Federal Defender Program in Chicago where she served for six years as a staff attorney.  In this capacity she represented indigent criminal defendants in all aspects of criminal litigation including preliminary hearings, trials, sentencing hearings and appeals.


Ms. Ellis then worked in private practice for several years at the white collar defense firm Stetler & Duffy in Chicago before joining the City of Chicago Department of Law in 2004.  She served as an assistant corporation counsel for the City for four years, primarily handling section 1983 cases.


In 2008, Ms. Ellis joined Schiff Hardin where she handles both criminal and civil matters   She has also served as an adjunct professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, teaching federal criminal practice and legal writing. 


Ms. Ellis has a distinguished record of pro bono work and community service.  Among her endeavors, she has taught reading and legal skills to children living in juvenile detention; coached students at the Hyde Park Academy in a mock trial competition; and provided legal advice and guidance to the Warren Park Youth Baseball League.   She is also actively involved with St. Gertrude Catholic Parish and is on the board of the parish school, Northside Catholic Academy.


Ms. Ellis is joined today by family and friends including her husband Alfred, her daughter Sofia, her sons Freddy and Luke, her mother Mary, her father Robert, and her brother Robert.  We welcome you all here today.


Andrea Wood Introduction


Our final Illinois nominee today is Andrea R. Wood.   Ms. Wood has been nominated to fill the Chicago judgeship that was left vacant by the untimely death of Judge Bill Hibbler. 


Ms. Wood currently serves as a Senior Trial Counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement in Chicago, where she represents the SEC in complex litigation matters.


Ms. Wood is a native of St. Louis, and she received her B.A. from the University of Chicago where she was selected as one of the student convocation speakers.  She received her law degree from Yale, where she served on the Yale Law Journal.


After graduating from Law School, Ms. Wood clerked for Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  She then joined the Chicago office of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where she worked on securities, bankruptcy tax and other litigation matters.


Ms. Wood joined the SEC in 2004 as a senior attorney in the Division of Enforcement, where she investigated and litigated securities law violations including fraud, insider trading and other misconduct.  


In 2007, she became a Senior Trial Counsel, serving as lead SEC attorney on litigation matters and coordinating with U.S. Attorney Offices and other regulators on parallel enforcement actions.  She has received numerous awards for her work at the SEC including the Director’s Award from the Director of the Division of Enforcement as well as eight Special Act awards for her work on individual matters. 


In addition to her government service, Ms. Wood has served the Chicago community by volunteering at an organization that serves homeless women among other charitable causes. 


Ms. Wood is joined here today by her husband Percy.