Judge Stephen McGlynn – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

Judge Stephen McGlynn has had a varied career, including losing his seat on the state bench twice.  Now, he has been nominated by the Trump Administration for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois with the support of U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

Background

Stephen Patrick McGlynn was born in 1962.  McGlynn received a B.A. from the University of Dayton in 1984 and his J.D. from St. Louis University School of Law in 1987.

After graduation, McGlynn worked in private practice at McGlynn & McGlynn in Belleville, Illinois.  Additionally, from 1996 to 2005, McGlynn was also designated as a Special Assistant Attorney General in Illinois.  In 2006, upon the recommendation of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier (on whose campaign McGlynn worked), McGlynn was appointed to the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court.[1]  However, McGlynn was ousted from his seat in 2006 by Democrat Bruce Stewart.[2] 

After his election loss, McGlynn returned to McGlynn & McGlynn.  However, in 2010, Karmeier again appointed McGlynn to the state bench, this time to the Illinois 20th Judicial Circuit Court.[3]  However, McGlynn was, again, ousted by voters in 2012, this time in favor of Democrat Judy Cates.[4] 

Not to be deterred, Karmeier again appointed McGlynn to the 20th Judicial Circuit Court in 2013.[5]  This time, Karmeier won election in 2014 and has served on the court ever since.

History of the Seat

McGlynn has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.  This seat opened on March 31, 2019, when Judge Michael Reagan moved to senior status.

Legal Career

While McGlynn has a broad level of legal experience, he is particularly notable for his work in election and municipal law, and for representing local officials and Republican Party officials.  For example, McGlynn represented Centreville Mayor Riley Owens, who was charged with assault for telling an Alderman that the mayor would “blow your head off.”[6]

Interestingly, McGlynn’s close relationship to Republican officials came up in a federal corruption investigation against Gov. George Ryan.[7]  Documents uncovered by prosecutors showed that McGlynn was among several Republican officials who requested “favors” from Ryan while he served as Illinois’ Secretary of State.[8]  Specifically, McGlynn had requested a summer job for a local high school student.[9]  However, no wrongdoing was alleged or charged on McGlynn’s part.

In other matters, McGlynn represented the family members of a man who was run over by a police cruiser.[10]  After a grand jury failed to return an indictment against the police officer who operated the cruiser, McGlynn complained about the lack of justice for individuals who were “brutalized here without cause by police.”[11]

Jurisprudence

McGlynn has had three stints as a state court judge.  From 2005 to 2006, McGlynn was an appellate judge for the Fifth District Appellate Court.  From 2011 to 2012 and since 2013, McGlynn was a judge on the Illinois 20th Judicial Circuit Court.  McGlynn’s first two stints as judge ended with election losses, whereas the third continues to the present.  During that first loss, McGlynn was not recommended for the judgeship by the Illinois State Bar Association.[12]  Given his varied appointments, McGlynn has experience on both trial and appellate courts.

Among the more notable cases that McGlynn has handled, he issued a temporary restraining order preventing Caseyville Mayor Leonard Black from firing Police Chief Jose Alvarez.[13]  McGlynn’s ruling found that Black had violated Alvarez’s contract as well as his right to due process.[14]  In another case, McGlynn granted a demolition permit to the City of East St. Louis, which was seeking to raze the Murphy Building in its historic downtown.[15]

Political Activity

McGlynn has an extensive political history, including having served as the GOP Chairman of St. Clair County and as the Vice Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.[16]  Notably, McGlynn was instrumental in recruiting Alan Keyes to challenge then-state senator Barack Obama in running for the U.S. Senate in 2004.[17]  Keyes, however, lost badly, getting only 30% of the vote after a series of controversial statements, including describing same-sex relationships as “selfish hedonism.”[18]  McGlynn was also active in the campaign of Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who would later promote McGlynn to judgeships three times.[19]

Overall Assessment

Ordinarily, the fact that a nominee has the support of their Democratic home-state senators is enough for me to designate them a consensus nominee.  However, in McGlynn’s case, it’s a little more complicated.

McGlynn’s long partisan history and his close connection with Karmeier, whose ethics have been called into question,[20] may also raise concerns.  Critics may focus on the fact that McGlynn has twice been voted out of office as a judge only to be reappointed to judgeships by Karmeier.  Republicans may also object to McGlynn’s comments on police brutality.

That being said, McGlynn’s jurisprudence does not reflect a partisan bias. As such, as long as Durbin and Duckworth remain on board, critics may choose to focus their fire on more appealing targets.


[1] Paul Hampel, Karmeier Taps 2 From GOP for Appeals Court: He Had Pledged to Be Nonpartisan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 9, 2005.

[2] Id.

[3] Belleville News-Democrat, McGlynn Tapped as New Judge in Southwestern Ill., A.P. State & Local Wire, Sept. 2, 2010.

[4] See Bill Grimes, Republicans Dominate Local Election, Effingham Daily News, Nov. 8, 2012.

[5] Press Release, Illinois Supreme Court, Illinois Supreme Court Appoints Stephen McGlynn as Circuit Judge in 20th Judicial Circuit, June 19, 2013.

[6] See Robert Goodrich, Centreville Mayor is Acquitted of Assault; He Was Accused in Dispute with Alderman at City Hall; 2nd Alderman Backs Mayor’s Story, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 4, 1999.

[7] See Kevin McDermott, Metro East Officials Defend Seeking Favors From Ryan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 1, 2003.

[8] See id.

[9] See id.

[10] Paul Hampel, Protesters Express Outrage that Policeman Who Ran Over Fleeing Suspect Wasn’t Indicted; Madison County Grand Jury Ruled Death An Accident, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 2003.

[11] Id.

[12] Paul Hampel and William Lamb, 3 GOP Judges are Panned in Poll, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 23, 2006.

[13] Judge Intervenes in Mayor’s Firing of Police Chief, A.P. State & Local Wire, Mar. 6, 2014.

[14] See id. 

[15] See Paul Hampel, Judge Won’t Stop Demolition of Historic East St. Louis Building; Owner Vows to Fight On, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 15, 2015.

[16] See Patrick E. Gauen, St. Clair County Politics Goes From Hardball to Worse, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 29, 1996.  See also Norm Parish, Illinois Republicans Aim to Draw Black Voters; Co-Leader of State Party Plans Major Recruitment Drive; Says Message is Attractive, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 9, 2002.

[17] See Alex Pasternack, Keyes Enters Illinois Senate Race Against Democrat Obama, N.Y. Sun, Aug. 9, 2004.

[18] A.P., Keyes: Cheney’s Gay Daughter Practicing ‘Selfish Hedonism’, NBCNews.com, Sept. 2, 2004, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5897569#.XoaZudNKiCQ.

[19] See Hampel, supra n. 1.

[20] Billy Corriher and Brent DeBeaumont, Dodging a Billion Dollar Verdict, Center for American Progress, Aug. 14, 2013, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/courts/reports/2013/08/14/72199/dodging-a-billion-dollar-verdict/.