Durbin Questions District Court Nominees at Latest Judiciary Committee Nominations Hearing

WASHINGTON – During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Judge Sara E. Hill, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma; John David Russell, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma; and Ramona Villagomez Manglona, nominated to be Judge for the District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Durbin began by asking Ms. Hill about her time serving as Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation from 2019 to 2023.  In 2020, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which had major ramifications for tribal sovereignty and tribal jurisdiction.

“Most members of Congress who have tribal representation in their states understand this whole issue of tribal sovereignty and the fact that you have served as Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation, could you summarize in a few sentences the difference or the challenge that you faced with that responsibility?” Durbin asked.

Ms. Hill responded that serving as Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation has been very challenging following the Court’s decision in McGirt.  She noted that she had to scale up the office after McGirt in order to handle all of the different cases newly in its jurisdiction.

Durbin then asked Ms. Hill about how she should view her role if confirmed as a district court judge versus that of the Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation.  Ms. Hill responded that “a district court judge for the United States is an entirely different job than the job of an advocate… For a federal district judge, it is an entirely different job.  The job is to look at all of the cases that come before you impartially and fairly, and looking at everything on their own terms and then applying the facts to the law.  It is a much different role entirely.”

Durbin then asked Judge Manglona about her experiences and legal career in the Northern Mariana Islands and how that has equipped her to continue serving.

“You’ve had a range of experience as a litigator and as a jurist, and spent your legal career in the Northern Mariana Islands, including a previous appointment to the bench to which you have been re-nominated.  I want to make a note of this fact: that after the island was hit with devastating typhoons in 2015 and 2018, you kept the courthouse open to ensure the crucial work of the judiciary would not be interrupted.  Your judicial chambers were awarded the 2019 Director’s Award for Extraordinary Actions from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts,” Durbin said.  “How have your experiences equipped you to continue serving that unique need in the Northern Mariana Islands?”

Judge Manglona responded that “the experience I have gone through made me stronger in regards to being creative in how to deal with the challenges… I believe all of this experience is going to ensure that should there be another disaster or calamity, I will be so well prepared to maintain or keep the courthouse doors open to ensure that people’s constitutional rights are still addressed.”

Finally, Durbin asked Mr. Russell about his work on a pharmaceutical class action against the manufacturer of a breast cancer drug, Herceptin.

“While reviewing your record, I noticed you’ve been representing U.S. purchasers in a putative class action against the manufacturer of a breast cancer drug called Herceptin.  The plaintiffs in the suit contend the company falsely labeled vials of the drug so that the purchasers regularly received less of the active ingredient than they thought they were receiving,” Durbin said.  “Can you tell us about your work in that case and what specific claims the class is raising?”

Mr. Russell responded that “The claims are a breach of warranty, fraud, and several different claims relating to the lack of Herceptin that is showing up in the vials over a historical period of time.  So the claims are that the doctors’ offices were having to administer the Herceptin and were having to open additional vials at cost and loss each time they had to administer Herceptin to a breast cancer patient.”

Durbin noted that accurate “labeling and handling and bottling [of pharmaceuticals] is a critical element in making sure that American consumers are treated fairly.”

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Today’s hearing continues the Committee’s work filling judicial and executive vacancies with highly qualified, diverse candidates who help ensure the fair and impartial administration of the American justice system.  Under the leadership of Chair Durbin, the Senate has confirmed 154 judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench during the Biden administration.  Nineteen lifetime judges – including three circuit court nominees and fourteen district court nominees – are eligible for a vote on the Senate floor.