Durbin: White House Nominates Three to Fill Federal Judicial Vacancies in Central & Southern Districts

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that President Obama will nominate Sara Ellis and Andrea Wood to fill two current vacancies on the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois.  President Obama also announced his intent to nominate 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.


“All three of the President’s nominees are excellent candidates for federal judgeships in Illinois,” said Durbin.  “As dedicated public servants, they have each gained a wealth of experience throughout their legal careers.  I will work with my colleagues, including Senator Kirk, to see that all three judicial nominees are swiftly confirmed by the Senate.” 


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.


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).


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.


The screening committees reviewed applications, interviewed applicants and references, and recommended the names of several individuals to Durbin.   Durbin reviewed the screening committees’ recommendations, conducted interviews of the finalists, and submitted his recommendations to the President, who makes 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 who will be nominated by the President follow (all names are listed in alphabetical order):


Colin Bruce


Mr. Bruce has been a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Central District of Illinois since 1989, and he currently serves as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney. He has handled over 600 cases in federal court, including 60 jury trials and 80 appeals, and he has prosecuted major federal cases involving firearms, drugs, fraud, money laundering, and cybercrime. He earned a BA and JD from the University of Illinois.  Mr. Bruce lives in Savoy.


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.


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.