Durbin Introduces Illinois Residents at Senate Committee Hearing on Northern District Judicial Nominations

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced John Lee and John “Jay” Tharp at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on their nominations by President Obama to fill two vacancies on the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois.  Their nominations are expected to receive a vote in the committee within the next few weeks.  If approved, their nominations will receive a vote by the full Senate.


A spokesperson Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) provided the following statement on today’s hearing: John Tharp has served his country with distinction as Assistant U.S. Attorney and member of the United States Marine Corps.  His experience as a prosecutor and lawyer uniquely qualify him to serve as a federal judge and the Senate should move forward expeditiously to confirm Mr. Tharp.  We would like to especially thank Senator Dick Durbin for his gracious representation of Sen. Kirk's efforts at today's hearing and for advancing Mr. Tharp's nomination.


[Text of Senator Durbin’s remarks as prepared are below]


Judiciary Nominations Hearing – January 26, 2012

Introduction of John Lee and John “Jay” Tharp


I will now introduce the two district court nominees from Illinois, John Lee and Jay Tharp. 


Before I do, I will note that my colleague Senator Kirk very much wanted to be here today.  As we all know, he is recovering from a stroke he suffered this past weekend.  We all wish Senator Kirk a swift recovery and we have heard encouraging reports about his progress so far.  We look forward to seeing him back in the Senate as soon as possible.  


Senator Kirk and I both support the outstanding Illinois nominees who are before us today.  These two nominees will fill vacancies that have been identified as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  Senator Kirk and I will work together to see that the nominees are confirmed without delay. 


Lee Introduction

Our first Illinois nominee today is John Lee, who has been nominated to the Chicago-based seat that was formerly occupied by Judge David Coar.


Mr. Lee is currently a partner at the law firm of Freeborn & Peters LLP where his practice concentrates on commercial litigation matters.  Born to Korean parents, Mr. Lee came to this country as an immigrant at age 5.  His father was a coal miner, and his mother was a nurse.  They settled in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, in a one-bedroom apartment that got pretty crowded when they were later joined by Mr. Lee’s grandmother and his younger brother.  


From his humble beginnings, Mr. Lee went on to attend Harvard College, where he graduated magna cum laude, and then earned his law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School. 


After law school, he worked as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, where he represented the United States in litigation at both the district court and circuit court level. 


After his tenure at the Justice Department, Mr. Lee worked at the law firms of Mayer Brown and Grippo & Elden before joining Freeborn & Peters in 1999.  His practice has focused on antitrust, intellectual property, environmental, and other complex commercial litigation matters.  He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being named a “Leading Lawyer” from 2008 through 2011 by the Leading Lawyers Network. 


Mr. Lee has a distinguished record of community service in the Chicago area.  He currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors of Asian Human Services of Chicago, an organization that provides social services to Asian-American immigrant communities in Chicago. 


He also serves on the Board of Directors and was the past President of the Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services, or CARPLS, which is a legal services “hotline” for Cook County that serves more than 50,000 low income clients every year.   Additionally, Mr. Lee is a member of the Board of Directors of the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago.


Mr. Lee’s nomination is a historic one.  Upon confirmation, Mr. Lee would be the first Korean-American ever to serve as a federal Article III judge in Illinois.  He would also be only the second Korean-American to serve as a federal district court judge in our nation’s history. 


Mr. Lee is joined here today by family and friends, who I had the privilege of meeting earlier today and who I know are very proud of him.   


Tharp Introduction

The other Illinois nominee before us today is Jay Tharp, who was nominated to fill the Chicago district court seat that opened up when Judge Blanche Manning took senior status. 


Mr. Tharp is currently a partner in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown LLP, where he is the co-leader of the firm’s securities litigation and enforcement practice. 


He was born into a military family as the son of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps.  He attended Duke University on a ROTC scholarship, received his undergraduate degree summa cum laude, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  He served in active duty with the Marines from 1982 to 1987, achieving the rank of Captain and earning the Navy Achievement Medal and the Navy Distinguished Midshipman Award.


After his military service, Mr. Tharp attended Northwestern University Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude and served on the Northwestern University Law Review.  Upon graduation he served as a judicial clerk for Judge Joel Flaum on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 


Mr. Tharp then worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago from 1992-1997, where he served in the Appellate and General Crimes divisions and also in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.


After his tenure as a federal prosecutor, he joined Mayer Brown, where his practice specializes in complex commercial litigation and criminal investigations with a particular focus on securities fraud and professional liability matters.  He has received numerous recognitions, including being named an Illinois “Super Lawyer “ from 2009 through 2011. 


Mr. Tharp has served as an Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy at Northwestern University Law School, and he serves as a member of the Law Fund Board at Northwestern which oversees fundraising efforts by law school alumni.  He also served for a year as vice-chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee where he oversaw the associations’ evaluation of applicants for judicial positions in Cook County.  


Mr. Tharp is joined today by family and friends, who I was fortunate to meet earlier today.  We are glad all of you are here.