Judge Amy St. Eve – Nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

In 2002, the 35-year-old Amy St. Eve became one of the youngest judges ever appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  Last month, St. Eve was nominated by President Trump to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, an elevation that is supported by her home state senators.  It is a promotion she is likely to get.

Background

Amy Joan St. Eve was born in Belleville, Illinois on November 20, 1965.  St. Eve attended Cornell University, getting a B.A. in 1987.  She continued on to Cornell Law School, getting her J.D. in 1990.

After graduating law school, St. Eve joined the New York office of Davis, Polk & Wardwell as an Associate.[1]  In October 1994, St. Eve was hired by Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to be a prosecutor for his office.[2]  In 1996, St. Eve moved to be a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.[3]  In May 2001, she joined Abbott Laboratories in Abbott Park, Illinois as Senior Counsel of Litigation.[4]

On March 21, 2002, St. Eve was nominated by President George W. Bush for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois vacated by Judge George Lindberg.  Engelhardt’s nomination was championed by then-Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).  St. Eve was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on August 1, 2002.  She serves as a federal district judge today.

History of the Seat

St. Eve has been nominated for a Illinois seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  This seat opened with Judge Ann Claire Williams’ move to senior status on June 5, 2017.

On June 22, 2017, the White House Counsel’s Office reached out to St. Eve to gauge her interest in the Seventh Circuit appointment.[5]  St. Eve interviewed with the office on June 27.[6]  In December 2017, St. Eve was subsequently informed by Illinois Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth that she would be nominated for the vacancy.  Her nomination was officially sent to the Senate on February 15, 2018.

Legal Career

St. Eve began her legal career as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City, where she represented businesses in defending civil and white collar criminal cases.[7]  In 1994, she joined the legal team assembled by Independent Counsel Ken Starr in investigating and prosecuting the Whitewater cases.  As an attorney there, St. Eve helped prosecute then-Arkansas-Governor Jim Guy Tucker for bank fraud and government fraud.[8]

In 1996, St. Eve became a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.  During her tenure, St. Eve prosecuted white collar crime, narcotics, and fraud.  However, many of her most notable cases focused on government corruption.  For example, St. Eve participated in “Operation Safe Road,” a government investigation of corruption under the Illinois Secretary of State’s office during the tenure of Republican George Ryan (later the Governor).[9]  As a result of the investigation, St. Eve successfully prosecuted numerous employees who had fraudulently given out vehicle operator licenses in exchange for cash bribes.[10]  Ryan himself would eventually be indicted and convicted after St. Eve’s confirmation to the bench.

Jurisprudence & Reversals

St. Eve has served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for the last sixteen years.  In this role, St. Eve has presided over 123 trials, 49 in criminal cases and the remaining 74 in civil cases.[11]  We have summarized two areas where St. Eve has made a mark:

Religious Discrimination

In two cases where she reached opposite results, St. Eve has elucidated her views on the level of protection offered to employees when they allege religious discrimination.[12]  In one case, St. Eve found that Wal Mart did not discriminate against a Christian employee when she was dismissed for telling other employees that “gay people are sinners and are going to hell.”[13]  Rather, St. Eve found that, to allege discrimination, the employee needed to show that non-Christian employees who held the same anti-gay views she did were treated differently by Wal Mart.[14]  As no such allegation was made, St. Eve ruled that dismissing the employee was not anti-Christian discrimination.[15]

In contrast, St. Eve declined to dismiss the discrimination case brought by an employee at Sidetrack, a Chicago gay bar, who alleged harassment and discrimination based on his Christian beliefs.[16]  In the suit, the plaintiff alleged “anti-Christian video clips Sidetrack played during comedy nights, offensive performances ridiculing Christians at special events, and degrading comments Sidetrack employees…made to Plaintiff because of his religion.”[17]  In denying summary judgment for Sidetrack, St. Eve found that a reasonable jury could find that the evidence constituted discrimination against the plaintiff based on his religious, rather than his political beliefs.[18]

Civil Rights Cases

During her fifteen years as a judge, St. Eve has presided over many civil rights cases.  In her rulings, St. Eve has been evenhanded, ruling for plaintiffs in some cases,[19] and for the defendants in others.[20]

In one notable case, St. Eve presided over a challenge by a special education teacher who was injured by an autistic student.[21]  The teacher alleged substantive due process violations and Monell liability due to failure to train after a struggle with an autistic student led to head injuries and a serious concussion.[22]  Specifically, the teacher criticized the school’s administration for failing to put the student in a therapeutic day school.[23]

St. Eve rejected the teacher’s claim, arguing that the administration’s decision to allow the student to continue attending school “was not an arbitrary decision, but instead was based on a deliberative process.”[24]  As such, St. Eve granted summary judgment for the defendants.[25]  The Seventh Circuit ultimately affirmed St. Eve’s decision.[26]

Reversals

In the sixteen years that St. Eve has served as a federal judge, she has been reversed by higher courts 43 times: 39 times by the Seventh Circuit; and four times by the Federal Circuit.[27]  In fourteen cases, the Seventh Circuit reversed St. Eve’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s civil complaint or a grant of summary judgment against the plaintiff.[28]  In contrast, St. Eve’s rulings in favor of plaintiffs have been reversed in three cases.[29]  In the criminal context, St. Eve’s sentences have been reversed by the Seventh Circuit in twelve cases.[30]

Overall Assessment

St. Eve comes to the confirmation process with a long judicial paper trail.  This record establishes her as a middle-of-the-road judge with no bias towards either conservative or liberal judicial philosophies.  Additionally, with her long tenure as a federal judge, St. Eve’s qualifications for the appellate bench are unquestionable.

Furthermore, St. Eve’s record as a federal prosecutor also speaks to her evenhandedness.  While she participated in the politically charged investigation over Whitewater, and successfully prosecuted Democratic Governor Jim Guy Tucker, she also worked to bring down a system of patronage and corruption established by a Republican secretary of state in Illinois.  Her success on both fronts makes it difficult to paint her as a partisan prosecutor.

As such, St. Eve is likely to be seen as a “consensus” nominee, one expected to get a swift and uncontroversial confirmation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Amy St. Eve: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 53.

[3] See id.

[4] See id. at 2.

[5] See id. at 68.

[6] See id.

[7] See id. at 53.

[8] See United States v. McDougal, 95-cr-175 (E.D. Ark.)

[9] See Andrew Zajac and Flynn McRoberts, Operation Safe Road: License Scheme Led to Wider Investigation, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 18, 2003, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-12-18/news/0312180299_1_driver-s-licenses-plates-applicants.

[10] See United States v. Mastrodomenico, 98-cr-623 (N.D. Ill.); United States v. Seibel, 99-cr-78 (N.D. Ill.); United States v. Golumb, 99-cr-871 (N.D. Ill.).

[11] See St. Eve, supra n. 1 at 21.

[12] Patrik Jonnson, Danziger Bridge Retrial Takes New Orleans Back to Katrina Chaos, Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 19, 2013.

[13] Matthews v. Walmart, Inc., No. 08 C 5312, 2010 WL 11545667, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 2010), aff’d sub nom. Matthews v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 417 F. App’x 552 (7th Cir. 2011).

[14] See id. at *3-4.

[15] See id.

[16] Parker v. Side by Side, Inc., 50 F. Supp. 3d 988, 995 (N.D. Ill. 2014).

[17] Id. at 1002.

[18] Id. at 1013-14.

[19] See, e.g., Ayoubi v. Basilone, No. 14 C 0602, 2016 WL 6962189, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 28, 2016) (denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss); Sokol v. City of Chicago, Illinois, No. 13 CV 5653, 2014 WL 5473050, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 29, 2014) (denying proposed order to protect confidential information by Defendants); Pierce v. Cook Cty., No. 12 C 5725, 2014 WL 4376231, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 4, 2014) (denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss action as unexhausted).  

[20] See, e.g., Smith v. Ramirez, No. 12 C 509, 2014 WL 4070202, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 2014) (denying Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment); Hicks v. Young, No. 10 C 3874, 2011 WL 5507379, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2011) (granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim); Caudle El v. Lake Cty. Sheriffs, No. 08 C 6534, 2010 WL 11546028, at *4 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2010) (granting summary judgment to Defendants on deliberate indifference claim); Jackson v. Indian Prairie Sch. Dist. 204, No. 08 C 4312, 2010 WL 11545957, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2010), aff’d, 653 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2011) (granting summary judgment for Defendants).

[21] See Jackson v. Indian Prairie Sch. Dist. 204, No. 08 C 4312, 2010 WL 11545957, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2010), aff’d, 653 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2011).

[22] Id. at *3.

[23] See id. at *4.

[24] Id.

[25] Id. at *5.

[26] 653 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2011).

[27] See St. Eve, supra n. 1 at 40-46.

[28] See Yanhke v. Kane Cnty., 823 F.3d 1066 (7th Cir. 2016); Reid v. Illinois, 808 F.3d 1103 (7th Cir. 2015); Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304 (7th Cir. 2015); Petrovic v. Enter. Leasing Co. of Chicago, LLC, 513 F. App’x 609 (7th Cir. 2013); Todd v. Kohl’s Dep’t Store, 490 F. App’x 824 (7th Cir. 2013); Schwartz v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 450 F.3d 697 (7th Cir. 2006); Shaffer v. Am. Med. Ass’n, 662 F.3d 439 (7th Cir. 2011); Fairley v. Andrews, 578 F.3d 518 (7th Cir. 2009); Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd. v. Tellabs, 437 F.3d 588 (7th Cir. 2006); Shapo v. Engle, 463 F.3d 641 (7th Cir. 2006); Davis v. Carter, 452 F.3d 686 (7th Cir. 2006); Bremgettcy v. Horton, 423 F.3d 674 (7th Cir. 2005); Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ill. v. Cruz, 396 F.3d 793 (7th Cir. 2005); Xechem, Inc. v. Bristol Myers Squibb Co., 372 F.3d 899 (7th Cir. 2004).

[29] See Riley v. Blagojevich, 425 F.3d 357 (7th Cir. 2005); Transpersonnel, Inc. v. Roadway Express, Inc., 422 F.3d 456 (7th Cir. 2005); Schimmer v. Jaguar Cars, Inc., 384 F.3d 402 (7th Cir. 2004).

[30] See United States v. Harrington, 834 F.3d 733 (7th Cir. 2016); United States v. Rogers, 528 F. App’x 641 (7th Cir. 2013); United States v. Vidal, 705 F.3d 742 (7th Cir. 2013); United States v. Knox, 496 F. App’x 649 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Hernandez, 479 F. App’x 735 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Knox, 412 F. App’x 867 (7th Cir. 2011); United States v. Black, 625 F.3d 386 (7th Cir. 2010); United States v. Knox, 573 F.3d 441 (7th Cir. 2009); United States v. Adefumi, 279 F. App’x 401 (7th Cir. 2008); United States v. Smith, 276 F. App’x 497 (7th Cir. 2008); United States v. McMahan, 495 F.3d 410 (7th Cir. 2007); United States v. Garcia, 439 F.3d 363 (7th Cir. 2006).

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