Senate Panel Advances Four Picks for Illinois Federal Judgeships

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved six of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees on Thursday, including four who are up for seats on courts in Illinois.

All of the nominees the committee sent to the full Senate had some measure of bipartisan support, including the Illinois nominees who were the product of a compromise between the White House and the state’s Democratic senators.

Judges David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn, who both sit on the Illinois state bench and are up for seats on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, faced opposition from all Democrats on the Judiciary Committee except for Senator Dick Durbin, as they drew scrutiny from activist groups and Democrats over their views on abortion.

The Melvin Price Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in East St. Louis, Ill., home of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. (Photo via Nyttend/Wikipedia Commons)

Dugan was appointed to the Third Judicial Circuit in Madison County in 2017, after working in private practice at numerous firms in Illinois since 1985. He also spent a year as a part-time prosecutor in Madison County.

While running to keep his seat in the 2018 election, Dugan received the endorsement of Illinois Right to Life Action. In response to the group’s election questionnaire, Dugan said he views the Supreme Court holding in Roe v. Wade as “sorely misplaced” and expressed the view that life begins at conception “and that from that moment forward, taking that child’s life is the taking of a human life.” 

But Dugan also cautioned the group that while he has held the views he expressed “for many years,” he would follow the law on the state court bench. In explaining his answers to the survey in response to questions Durbin submitted in writing after his nomination hearing, Dugan said he would put his personal leanings aside and maintain independence on the federal bench.

“A judge must in all things be independent of political and societal pressures and influences and his or her decisions must reflect that independence through faithful and dutiful adherence to binding precedent,” Dugan wrote.

McGlynn has had three stints as a state-court judge in Illinois, first as an appellate court justice on the Fifth District Appellate court from 2005 to 2006. He served as a judge on the 20th Judicial Circuit Court from 2010 to 2012 and retook the same position in 2013.

In between his judicial positions, he worked at the Belleville firm McGlynn & McGlynn, where he began his legal career as an associate in 1986.

McGlynn has significant ties to Republican politics in Illinois, including serving as the chairman of the Illinois Republican Platform Committee in 2004. In line with prevailing party opinion on abortion, that platform insisted on the need “to protect the fundamental right to life and dignity of every human life including the lives of unborn children.”

McGlynn was also a member of the Illinois Federation for Right to Life in 2007, but told the committee he only joined the group so he could vote for his brother, who was making a bid for membership of the board.

Like Dugan, McGlynn assured senators in written answers to their questions that he would leave behind his personal views on the bench, saying he has cut back his involvement in partisan groups and that his time on the appellate bench has given him significant respect for precedent.

“I do not come to the bench as a saboteur, looking to undermine the rule of law with respect to cases or statutes with which I might not agree,” McGlynn wrote.

The liberal Alliance for Justice came out against both Dugan and McGlynn in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the eve of the votes, citing their past stances on abortion.

“Given their demonstrated opposition to critical constitutional rights, Alliance for Justice opposes the confirmations of David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn to lifetime seats on the federal bench,” the letter states.

Also receiving the committee’s blessing was Judge Franklin Valderrama, who has served on the Cook Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois since 2007. Before taking the bench, Valderrama worked at the Chicago firm Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman.

In 2015, Valderrama ordered the release of dashcam footage that showed the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white Chicago police officer in October 2014.  The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2019.

Valderrama is nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and received committee approval in a 16-6 vote, with all votes in opposition coming from Republicans.

Ian Johnston, who works as a magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the same court to which he has been nominated, was approved with a 17-5 vote.

The committee also approved Judge Hala Jarbou, who currently serves on the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Oakland County, Michigan, with an 18-4 vote. An immigrant from Iraq and a former federal and state prosecutor, Jarbou would sit on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan if confirmed.

Receiving unanimous approval was Roderick Young, a magistrate judge who would sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Young has been a magistrate judge since 2014 and has also spent time as a federal and state prosecutor.

The nominees now await a confirmation vote before the full Senate.

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