Judge Colleen Lawless – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois

Three years onto the state court bench, Judge Colleen Lawless has been nominated for a seat for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Background

Born Colleen Rae Schuster, Lawless received a B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2005 and a J.D. from Northern Illinois University School of Law in 2009.

After graduation, Lawless joined Londrigan, Potter & Randle P.C., becoming a shareholder with the firm.

In 2019, Lawless became an associate judge on the Illinois 7th district Circuit Court. She currently serves on the court.

History of the Seat

Lawless has been nominated for a future vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, which Judge Sue Myerscough has indicated will open upon the confirmation of a successor. In June 2022, Lawless was recommended by Illinois’ Democratic Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth for the seat alongside Chicago attorney Johanes Maliza and University of Illinois attorney Rhonda Perry.

Legal Career

Before she became a judge, Lawless spent her entire legal career at Londrigan, Potter & Randle P.C. in Springfield.

At the firm, Lawless handled civil litigation, including representing a plaintiff suing her insurance company in seeking coverage regarding her stay in a facility (the company disputed whether the facility qualifies as a nursing home for benefit purposes). See Perry v. Transamerica Life Ins. Co., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67973 (C.D. Ill. July 8, 2010). She also represented Marvin Manns, an African American water maintenance worker who sued the City of Decatur for discrimination after he was terminated after refusing to sign an agreement that gave him a lower pay but allowed him to bypass civil service selection rules. See Manns v. City of Decatur, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82780 (C.D. Ill. July 28, 2011) (granting summary judgment to defendants).

Lawless has also handled class action suits, including a Fair Labor Standards Act suit against Treasure Hunters Roadshow. See Lee v. THR & Associates, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208963 (C.D. Ill. Apr. 5, 2013).

Jurisprudence

Since 2019, Lawless has served as a judge on the Illinois 7th Judicial Circuit Court, which covers the Springfield area. As a Circuit Court judge, Lawless handles civil and criminal trial-level cases, as well as administrative appeals.

Among the cases that Lawless handled on the bench, she denied an emergency motion from Sean Shea seeking the return of his minor child, who had left the state with the mother. See Cagwin v. Shea, 2022 IL App (4th) 210619-U (Ill. App. Mar. 11, 2022). An appellate court affirmed Lawless’ decision, finding that she appropriately found that injunctive relief was inappropriate.

Overall Assessment

With a career focused on civil cases (which usually draw less controversy), and an uneventful tenure on the state bench, Lawless should be unlikely to draw much ire through the confirmation process. Nonetheless, this may also be why Democrats choose to deprioritize her nomination, pushing more controversial names through while they retain their majority.