Senate Confirms Lee to Fill Federal Judgeships in Northern District

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and a representative from U.S. Senator Mark Kirk’s (R-IL) office today announced that the Senate has confirmed John Lee for a federal judgeship on the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois.  Durbin and Kirk have also worked closely on the nomination of John Tharp, who is expected to receive a confirmation vote later this month to fill a second vacancy in the Northern District.  Prior to the vote, Durbin spoke in favor of the two nominees on the Senate floor. 


“John Lee is an outstanding choice for the federal bench.  His confirmation today is historic as he is now the first Korean-American to serve as a federal district court judge in Illinois and only the second in the nation’s history,” said Durbin.  “Mr. Lee has an excellent legal resume and an outstanding record of community service, and I know he will serve the people of Illinois well as a federal judge in the Northern District.  I also look forward to voting to confirm John Tharp within the next few weeks.  It is imperative that we place these qualified nominees on the bench in the Northern District as quickly as possible.”


“John Lee will be a great addition to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois,” said a spokesperson for Senator Kirk.  “Senators Durbin and Kirk have worked on a bipartisan basis to support Mr. Lee, as well as the other judicial nominee for Illinois, John Tharp. Both Mr. Lee and Mr. Tharp are well-respected and will bring widespread expertise and knowledge to the District Court.”


John Lee


Mr. Lee is a partner at the law firm of Freeborn & Peters LLP where his practice concentrates on commercial litigation matters. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and cum laude from Harvard Law School. Following law school, Mr. Lee worked as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Environment & Natural Resources Division, where he represented the United States in environmental cases before various federal courts. Upon entering private practice, Mr. Lee joined the law firm Mayer Brown, where he represented clients in complex environmental disputes. He later joined the law firm Grippo & Elden LLC, where he represented clients in a variety of complex litigation matters, including antitrust, intellectual property and class action cases. 


Mr. Lee serves as the President of the Board of Directors of Asian Human Services of Chicago, an organization that is focused on providing social services to recent 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 (CARPLS), the legal services “hotline” for Cook County that serves more than 50,000 low income clients every year.  He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago.  Mr. Lee and his family currently live in the Barrington area.


Jay Tharp


Tharp, age 50, attended Duke University on a ROTC scholarship and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps after graduating summa cum laude with a degree in political science. Tharp served in the Marine Corps from 1982 to 1988, achieving the rank of Captain and earning the Navy Achievement Medal and the Navy Distinguished Midshipman Award.  He subsequently attended Northwestern University Law School on a full merit John Henry Wigmore Scholarship.  While at Northwestern, Tharp served as book review editor of the Northwestern Law Review.  He graduated magna cum laude in 1990.  


Following graduation, Tharp served a one-year clerkship under Judge Joel Flaum of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals from 1990 to 1991.  In 1992, Tharp was hired as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois.  It was there that Tharp tried the cases of Rosewell and D’Arco.  Since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1997, Tharp has worked at Mayer Brown LLP, where he was made partner in 1999.  Tharp is currently co-leader of Mayer Brown’s securities litigation and enforcement practice.  Tharp was originally nominated for a federal judgeship in July 2008 but the Senate did not act on his nomination before adjournment. 


John Tharp is married to Betsy Tharp and has 3 children, Matthew, Emily and Ellen.  Tharp led the U.S. Attorney’s 1995 investigation of Edward Rosewell, the former long-time Cook County Treasurer who pled guilty to engaging in a ghost-payrolling scheme.  Tharp also handled the investigation and prosecution of extortion charges against former Illinois Senate Majority Leader John D’Arco.