Judge Franklin Valderrama – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

The Dirksen Courthouse - where the Northern District of Illinois sits.

Judge Franklin Valderrama’s thirteen year tenure on the Cook County Circuit Court has put him in the center of a number of politically charged cases.  As such, if confirmed, Valderrama would certainly be prepared for the pressure that comes with being a federal judge.

Background

Franklin Ulyses Valderrama’s family is originally from Panama.[1]  Valderrama received a B.A. from the University of Illinois in 1985 and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1988.  

After graduation, Valderrama worked at Sanchez, Daniels, & Hoffman LLP in Chicago, where he became a Partner.[2]  Valderrama was appointed to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2007 and has served on the court ever since.

History of the Seat

Valderrama has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  This seat opened on September 27, 2019, when Judge Ruben Castillo moved to senior status.  Valderrama was nominated for the seat on February 12, 2020.

Legal Career

Valderrama’s legal career before he became a judge was at the firm of Sanchez, Daniels & Hoffman LLP.  At the firm, Valderrama largely focused on trial level litigation.[3]  Among his more notable cases, Valderrama represented Simon Management, who managed a strip mall, in a suit seeking liability for the death of a loss prevention specialist who was shot by a shoplifter.[4]  In the case, a jury found Simon Management partially responsible for the death of the loss prevention specialist.[5]  However, an appellate court reversed the verdict, finding that Simon Management could not be held responsible for the death of the plaintiff because there was no allegation that any negligence by security was involved in the specialist’s death.[6]

Jurisprudence

Valderrama has served as a judge on the Circuit Court of Cook County since 2007, the Circuit Court being the primary state trial court in Chicago.  In this role, Valderrama has presided over a number of high-profile cases.  

Most notably, Valderrama presided over the lawsuit arising from the police shooting of African American teenager Laquan McDonald.[7]  After a quick settlement in the case, a freelance journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request seeking the release of dash and body cam footage of the shooting.[8]  Valderrama ruled against the City and ordered the release of the footage, which the City reluctantly agreed to.[9]  Despite predictions of violence, protests following the release of the footage were largely peaceful.[10]

Among other notable decisions, Valderrama dismissed a lawsuit brought by gun control groups seeking to shut down gun shops in Chicago neighborhoods,[11] and dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Chicago Public School System challenging the state’s school funding formula as discriminatory.[12] 

Valderrama has also had to deal with aggressive lawyers in his courtroom.  In one case, Valderrama strongly admonished attorney Charles Andrew Cohn for using offensive language in reference to his opposing counsel during a deposition.[13]  Cohn attempted to justify his language and conduct by claiming that “a man who insults on a daily basis everybody he does business with has now been elected President of the United States” and that, thus, “I can say what I want.”[14]  Expectedly, Valderrama did not find this defense very persuasive and admonished Cohn in his language, only for Cohn to accuse the judge of “robe rage.”[15]  Cohn ultimately faced an ethics complaint due to his conduct.[16]

Overall Assessment

Judge Valderrama’s thirteen year tenure on the state bench paints the picture of a no-nonsense jurist who can handle tough issues and confrontational attorneys.  As he has recieeved the stamp of approval from the Trump Administration and Illinois’ Democratic senators, Valderrama is poised for a comfortable confirmation.


[1] See Betsy Wangesteen, Man, Oh Manny: Meet Chicago’s Uberschmoozer: ‘Stalking’ Dick Notebaert and Other Adventures with Solicitor Sanchez, Crain’s Chicago Business, June 9, 1997.

[2] Id. 

[3] See Press Release, Office of President Donald J. Trump, President Donald J. Trump Announces Judicial Nominee, Feb. 5, 2020 (available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-announces-judicial-nominee-3/).

[4] See Kolodziejzak v. Melvin Simon & Assocs., 685 N.E.2d 985 (Ill. App. 1997).

[5] See id. at 987.

[6] Id. at 991.

[7] See John Kass, The Video That Will Rip Chicago Apart, Right Wing News, Nov. 12, 2015.

[8] See id.

[9] Don Babwin, Chicago Says It’ll Release Shooting Video Per Judge’s Order, A.P. Online, Nov. 10, 2015.

[10] Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, Chicago Protests Mostly Peaceful After Video of Police Shooting is Released, N.Y. Times, Nov. 24, 2015.

[11] See Dean Weingarten, Lawsuit Against Cities Near Chicago, for Black Crime in Chicago is Struck Down, Ammoland.com, Mar. 15, 2016.

[12] Mike Kennedy, Judge Rejects Chicago School System’s Funding Lawsuit; District May Have to End School Year 3 Weeks Early, Am. Sch. & Univ., Apr. 28, 2017.

[13] See Debra Cassens Weiss, Lawyer Accuses Judge of ‘Robe Rage,’ Tells Opposing Counsel to ‘Certify Your Own Stupidity,’ Ethics Complaint Says, ABA Journal, Dec. 20, 2018, https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lawyer-accused-judge-of-robe-rage-told-opposing-counsel-to-certify-her-stupidity-ethics-charges-say.

[14] See id.

[15] See id.

[16] Id.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Pennsylvania Member of Congress Tracking Report - 09.20.20

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