May 11, 2022

Durbin Questions Illinois Judicial Nominees in Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing

If confirmed, Lee would become the first Asian American judge to serve on the Seventh Circuit, and Maldonado would become the first Hispanic woman to serve as an Article III federal judge in the state of Illinois

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 John Z. Lee, nominated to be United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit, and Salvador Mendoza Jr., nominated to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.  During the hearing, Durbin highlighted their extensive qualifications and asked them about their unique life experiences.  Judge Lee came to this country as an immigrant at the age of four.  Judge Mendoza’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico working as farm laborers, maids, and factory workers—and as a child, Judge Mendoza worked as a migrant farmworker. 

“I remember that [Judge Lee’s] immigrant story… Judge Mendoza, I’m sure you have a similar story to tell,” Durbin said.  “I could go through, with each of you, and recount what you’ve achieved as Judges… but the record speaks for itself.”

The American Bar Association rated Judge Lee and Judge Mendoza unanimously “Well Qualified” to serve as Circuit Court judges.

Video of Durbin’s questions to Judge Lee and Judge Mendoza in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions to Judge Lee and Judge Mendoza in Committee is available here.

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

Durbin also questioned Nancy L. Maldonado, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, about her service to the people of Cook County and the State of Illinois in a variety of capacities.

“Ms. Maldonado, I’m just amazed when I look at your background and find you clerking on the Northern District Court for two years and then your many years in private practice.  But then how many times you’ve been called to serve in a special capacity—Special Assistant State’s Attorney to Cook County to investigate fraud alleged by a whistleblower, appointment by the Illinois Attorney General to serve as a consent decree monitor in two cases, and also appointment by the Illinois AG to serve as a Special Assistant to investigate consumer fraud,” Durbin said.  “What lessons have you learned in those special capacities beyond the regular practice of law?”

Ms. Maldonado responded by saying that those special capacities have enriched her professional life “tremendously,” and allowed her to work alongside government.  She also noted that she believes she was selected for these special capacities not only for her knowledge in those areas of law, but also for her temperament and reputation of being fair and even-keeled.

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

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

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

Today’s nominations hearing also included Stephen Henley Locher, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa, and Gregory Brian Williams, nominated to be United States District Judge for the District of Delaware. 

Durbin and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) have established nonpartisan screening committees to assist them in evaluating candidates for vacant federal district court, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshal positions in Illinois.  The task of the screening committees is to review and vet candidates for the vacancies and advise the Senators regarding the candidates’ qualifications and fitness for the position.

Bios of the Illinois nominees from the White House are included below:

Judge John Z. Lee: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Judge John Z. Lee has served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois since 2012. From 1999 to 2012, Judge Lee was an associate and then partner at Freeborn & Peters LLP in Chicago. From 1996 to 1999, Judge Lee was an associate at Grippo & Elden LLC, and from 1994 to 1996, he was an associate at Mayer Brown LLP. Mr. Lee served as a trial attorney in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1992 to 1994.

Judge Lee received his A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1989, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 1992.

Nancy L. Maldonado: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Nancy L. Maldonado is a partner at Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C. in Chicago, Illinois. Ms. Maldonado joined the firm as an associate in 2003 and was elevated to partner in 2010. Ms. Maldonado previously served as a law clerk for Judge Rubén Castillo on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois from 2001 to 2003.

Ms. Maldonado received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2001, and her A.B., cum laude, from Harvard College in 1997.

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