Federal Judge Lee, former Barrington resident appointed to 7th Circuit Court of Appeals – Chicago Tribune


The U.S. Senate voted 50 to 44 earlier this month to confirm that federal trial court judge and former Barrington-area resident John Lee would serve as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Chicago.

The vote elevates Lee to a court one level below the U.S. Supreme Court that hears appeals from federal courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Lee, who has served as a federal trial court judge in Chicago since 2012, will become the first Asian American to serve as a judge on the 7th Circuit, which has 11 judgeships.

A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, Lee, 54, was born in Germany to Korean parents and moved with his family to the United States when he was 4 years old. He grew up in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago and worked in private practice as an attorney in Chicago until the US Senate confirmed him in 2012 as a federal trial court judge, according to available biographical information. on Lee.

Lee will replace longtime judge Diane Wood, who announced in December that she would take senior status, or some form of semi-retirement, upon confirmation of her successor. Wood is the former chief justice of the 7th Circuit, and court watchers said Lee had a tough act to follow to replace her on the court.

His nomination was approved on September 7 by the Senate on a partisan vote.

“There are few bigger shoes to fill than Judge Wood’s,” said John P. Collins, a visiting associate professor at George Washington University School of Law and a researcher who studies federal judicial appointments. “A former clerk and Supreme Court nominee, a distinguished law professor, the first female Chief Justice of the 7th Circuit – the list of accolades and accomplishments is long. She was a hugely influential judge during her more than 20 years on the bench, and often as a counterbalance to her equally influential conservative colleagues, (judges) Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, a longtime specialist in federal judicial selection, said Lee “has a lot of the same qualities as Wood”, calling him “a very experienced judge of a court highly respected district attorney who shares Wood’s attributes of being highly intelligent, independent, hardworking, collegial and possessing a balanced temperament.”

During Lee’s hearing in May before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, several Republican senators questioned Lee about a decision early in the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he upheld the applicability of the restraining order. home of Governor JB Pritzker to religious organizations for worship – a decision the 7th Circuit later upheld.

All 47 Democratic senators present voted in favor of Lee’s nomination, while three Republican senators — Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina and John Kennedy, R-Louisiana — also backed him. Experts disagreed on whether to characterize Lee’s confirmation vote by the Senate as bipartisan.

The vote was “not bipartisan, given that until the administration of (President Donald) Trump there were relatively few ‘noes’ for the (Circuit Court of Appeals) nominees – 33 of 55 of (President Barack) Obama’s candidates had zero zero votes,” said Russell Wheeler, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution and a longtime federal judiciary researcher. “Most senators from opposition parties don’t vote not (now) routinely is one more sign of a confirmation process deeply infected by the country’s polarized politics.”

And Collins called the vote “bipartisan in a technical sense,” noting that “the reality that there are only three or four Republicans who will vote for certain circuit court nominees, so in my mind, that is effectively a partisan and party-directed vote. However, Tobias called it a “bipartisan vote, which is great because the GOP essentially engaged in a deadlocked ‘no’ vote against many of the candidates on (President Joe’s) Biden’s call.”

In addition to his work as a lawyer and judge, Lee, who previously lived in the Barrington area and now resides in Chicago, has been involved in several civic and philanthropic endeavors in the northwest suburbs. From 2007 to 2010, he served as a representative on the School Board Enrollment Oversight Committee for Barrington School District 220. He also teamed up with two other attorneys to found a legal aid clinic in Hoffman Estates based on a partnership between his church, Willow Creek Community Church, and the Coordinated Services Counseling and Referral Program. legal. The clinic provides free legal services to low-income people in the northwestern suburbs,

Biden nominated Lee after Sen. Richard Durbin’s staff contacted Lee regarding a potential nomination to fill the vacancy of Wood’s transition to senior status.

At Lee’s Senate committee hearing in May, Durbin praised Lee’s background and qualifications.

“Since joining the bench, he has written hundreds of opinions and presided over more than 35 trials that have resulted in a verdict or judgment,” Durbin said during that hearing. “His appointment to the District Court 10 years ago was historic, and he is poised to make history again as a nominee for the Seventh Circuit. He will be the first Asian American to serve on this court.

Lee could not be reached for comment on his Senate confirmation. However, during his Senate hearing, he told senators he felt “honored and privileged” to be selected, and he discussed his parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States.

“It was their courageous decision almost 50 years ago to leave behind everything and everyone they knew to come to this great country to better their lives and the lives of their families,” Lee told the senators. “They are the ones who made it possible for me to be here today.”

The Biden administration has made judicial appointments — particularly to federal circuit appeals courts — a high priority. Since the Senate resumed after Labor Day, senators have confirmed five circuit judges.

“This confirmation brings Biden one step closer to filling all vacancies on the appeals court, but a number remain, and Biden and the Senate are working vigorously to fill them all,” Tobias said. “For example, by the end of this week, the Senate will have confirmed five more appellate justices since returning from August recess, bringing the total to 23. The 13 (confirmed) in its freshman year were a record for all the initial presidents.year in office.All of its candidates and appointees are highly appointees and centrists, who are diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, experience and ideology .

And Collins noted that with the US Senate split 50-50, “there is no guarantee” the nominees will be confirmed.

“Every judge you can uphold is a huge win,” he said.

Lee is the second judge Biden has appointed to the 7th Circuit. Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi won Senate confirmation in June 2021.

Goldsborough is an independent.

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