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.

Judge David Dugan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

Judge David Dugan is the epitome of a consensus nominee: a judge with extensive litigation experience and the support of the Republican Administration and his Democratic home-state senators.

Background

David W. Dugan was born in 1960.  Dugan received a B.A. in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University in 1982 and his J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1985.[1]  After law school, Dugan entered private practice, focusing on personal injury and commercial litigation, as well as working as a part-time assistant state’s attorney.[2]

In 2017, Dugan was appointed by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier to the Third Judicial Circuit.[3]  Dugan has served on the court ever since.

History of the Seat

Dugan has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.  This seat opened on January 7, 2019, when Judge David Herndon moved to senior status.  Dugan was nominated on February 12, 2020.

Legal Career

Dugan has practiced in civil and commercial litigation between 1986 and 2016.  In his thirty years of legal practice, Dugan has practiced in both state and federal courts, in particular in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Among the various cases that Dugan had handled, he represented plaintiffs seeking recovery for injuries from automobile accidents,[4]  prisoners seeking release under habeas review,[5]  and a plaintiff seeking to return an action that was “removed” to federal court back into state court.[6] 

Jurisprudence 

Dugan has served as an Illinois Circuit Court judge since his appointment in 2017.  In this role, Dugan serves on a court of general jurisdiction, reviewing civil and criminal cases, as well as habeas corpus and mandamus writs.  Among the cases he handled, Dugan reviewed a number of decisions of the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission,[7] as well as claims against the state government.[8]  Dugan’s decisions have generally been affirmed by higher courts.

Political Activity

Dugan has frequently donated to political candidates, mostly giving to Republicans, but with a handful of contributions to Democrats as well, most notably to then-Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2004.[9]

Overall Assessment

As noted earlier, Dugan has an uncontroversial record, decades of legal experience, and bipartisan support.  He will likely be confirmed near unanimously later this year.


[1] Staff Report, David W. Dugan Appointed as Circuit Judge for Third Judicial Circuit, The Telegraph, Feb. 12, 2017, https://www.thetelegraph.com/news/article/David-W-Dugan-appointed-as-circuit-judge-for-12589912.php.

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] See, e.g., Lynch v. Switalski, 2003 WL 262519 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 5, 2003).

[5] See e.g., Gines v. Mote, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33082 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 25, 2004).

[6] See Loellke v. Moore, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9313 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 26, 2012).

[7] See, e.g., Rednour v. Ill. Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2018 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1758 (Ill. App. Oct. 2, 2018).

[8] See, e.g., Grater v. Court of Claims, 2019 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1425 (Ill. App. Jul. 25, 2019).

Christy Wiegand – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Nineteen years ago, Christy Wiegand, then a young attorney at Arnold & Porter, was attacked while jogging in Rock Creek Park.  Wiegand fought back against her attacker, escaped, and later identified him to the police.  She went on to a distinguished career as a federal prosecutor, and now is primed for a seat on the federal bench.

Background

Christy Wiegand attended Princeton University, where she was a varsity rower, and went onto Cornell Law School, receiving her J.D. in 2000.[1]  After law school, Wiegand moved to Washington D.C. to join Arnold & Porter in their antitrust practice.  

However, in her first year in D.C., while jogging with her then-fiance in Rock Creek Park, Wiegand was attacked by a knife-wielding man.[2]  She managed to fight back and escaped to contact the police, who arrested her attacker, 19-year-old Ingmar Guandique.[3]  Guandique was later implicated in the murder of Chandra Levy, a Congressional intern whose disappearance had drawn suspicions on her boss, Congressman Gary Condit.[4]  Wiegand would also testify against Guandique who was ultimately convicted.[5]

In 2003, Wiegand left Arnold & Porter to clerk for Judge D. Brooks Smith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Since her clerkship, Wiegand has served as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

History of the Seat

The seat Wiegand has been nominated for opened on July 22, 2019, when Judge Peter Phipps, himself a Trump appointee, was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Wiegand was nominated on February 12, 2020.

Legal Experience

Wiegand has practiced law as an Associate at Arnold & Porter and as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  In the former position, Wiegand focused on antitrust law.[6] In the latter position, Wiegand has handled both civil and criminal matters, including serving as the Deputy Civil Chief.[7] 

Among the most notable cases Wiegand handled, she was part of a legal team suing Education Management Corp. (EDMC), a for-profit education conglomerate that was charged with violating federal laws.[8]  Wiegand also led prosecutions against the Darccide/Smash 44 Gang for narcotics, firearms, and organized crime violations.[9]

Political Activity

Wiegand has only one political contribution of record, a 2016 contribution of $1000 to Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA).[10] 

Overall Assessment

Having powered through far more significant obstacles and barriers, Wiegand should be able to navigate the Senate confirmation process relatively comfortably.  Given her relatively uncontroversial record and her support from both Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Wiegand can expect a bipartisan confirmation.


[1] See Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham, and Sylvia Moreno, Chapter Six: The Predator in the Park, Wash. Post, July 17, 2008.

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] Matthew Barakat, Chandra Levy’s Father Testifies About Efforts to Find Daughter, Other Testimony, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 26, 2010.

[5] See Matthew Barakat, Woman Testifies About Attack at Chandra Levy Trial, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 26, 2010.  See also Michael Doyle, Jury Finds Guandique Guilty of Killing Chandra Levy, Canwest News Service, Nov. 22, 2010.

[6] See Press Release, Office of Sen. Patrick Toomey, Toomey, Casey Applaud Nomination of Christy Wiegand to U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, Feb. 5, 2020 (available at https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=op_ed&id=2567).  

[7] See id.

[8] See Press Release, Office of the Attorney General, For-Profit College Company to Pay $95.5 Million to Settle Claims of Illegal Recruiting, Consumer Fraud, and Other Violations, Nov. 16, 2015.

[9] See Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Pennsylvania, First of 37 Defendants Charged in Darccide/Smash 44 Gang Investigation Pleads Guilty to Drug Charge, Dec. 6, 2019.