November 15, 2022

Durbin Questions Colleen R. Lawless, Nominated to the Central District of Illinois, in Judiciary Committee Hearing

Durbin also questioned latest Circuit and District Court nominees

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 Colleen R. Lawless, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois. During the hearing, Durbin questioned Judge Lawless about her approach to maintaining an evenhanded and impartial courtroom if confirmed to the Central District of Illinois. Durbin previously worked as an attorney in the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Illinois, and during his questioning, he highlighted a story about his first solo jury trial.

“It was an important lesson to me – how you treat people in the courtroom, how you treat the jury, the other attorneys, it makes a difference, and respect for our courts. So, I would like to ask a generalized question about your thoughts about that kind of demeanor,” said Durbin.

Judge Lawless responded that as a trial court judge, she has been able to set the expectation in the courtroom. She stated that as a judge, she makes it a priority to maintain a level of civility and to explain the process so she can appropriately decide the case in a fair and impartial manner.

Video of Durbin’s questions to Judge Lawless in Committee isavailable here.

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

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

Durbin also questioned DeAndrea Gist Benjamin, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit about transitioning to a Federal Circuit Judge.

“After all these years of litigation and trial practice, are you ready to change the lifestyle permanently to become a Circuit Judge?” Durbin asked.

Judge Benjamin emphasized her extensive judicial experience and commitment to equal justice and stated that it would be an honor and a privilege to be confirmed to the Fourth Circuit. Judge Benjamin  has had a prominent career as both a litigator and a jurist and has deep ties to the South Carolina legal community. In 2004, Judge Benjamin began serving as a Municipal Judge for the City of Columbia, South Carolina. In 2011, the South Carolina General Assembly elected her to serve as a Circuit Court Judge in South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit. During her time on the bench, she has presided over thousands of matters involving both civil and criminal issues, including over 300 trials.

Durbin then asked about her time serving as Assistant Attorney General for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, where she was named South Carolina’s State Violence Against Women Prosecutor

“What did your work in that capacity entail?” Durbin asked. 

Judge Benjamin responded that at that time, she handled cases involving children and crimes against the elderly. She also prosecuted cases across the state and trained law enforcement on the laws regarding domestic violence.

Video of Durbin’s questions to Judge Benjamin in Committee isavailable here.

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

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

Today’s nominations hearing also included Robert Stewart Ballou, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia; Todd E. Edelman, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia; Kymberly Kathryn Evanson, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington; and Myong J. Joun, to be United States District Judge for the District of Massachusetts. All nominees reiterated to Durbin that they will be just and fair if confirmed.

On May 12, 2022, Judge Sue Myerscough of the Central District of Illinois sent a letter notifying the President that she intended to assume senior status upon confirmation of her successor.  In May, Durbin and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) established a screening committee to review applicants to be a Federal District Court Judge in the Central District of Illinois.  Their screening committee is comprised of distinguished members of the Central District’s legal community.  The screening committee’s task was to review and vet District Court candidates and advise the Senators regarding the candidates’ qualifications and fitness for the position.  In June, the Senators sent a letter to the White House recommending three candidates for President Biden’s consideration for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, including Judge Lawless. 

The biography of Colleen R. Lawless from the White House is below:

Colleen R. Lawless has served as an Associate Judge for the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Sangamon County, Illinois, since 2019.  Judge Lawless was previously a shareholder at Londrigan, Potter & Randle P.C. in Springfield, Illinois, from 2009 to 2019.  Judge Lawless received her J.D. from Northern Illinois University College of Law in 2009 and her B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2005.

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