Currently a business litigator, Durkin, 58, becomes the sixth federal trial court judge that President Barack Obama has gotten confirmed to the Chicago-based federal court since taking office. Obama nominated Durkin in May to replace Judge Wayne Andersen, who had retired in July 2010.
The confirmation, which came in a voice vote, comes amid a recent flurry of judicial confirmations during Congress’ post-election lame-duck session. Since Dec. 3, senators have confirmed 10 federal trial court judges, some of whom had been waiting as long as 10 months for a vote. In addition to Durkin’s confirmation today, the Senate also voted in a voice vote to confirm Fernando Olguin to a federal judgeship in California.
Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin recommended Durkin to the White House in 2009 at the recommendation of a bipartisan judicial screening committee. Durkin also had the support of Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.
A Downers Grove resident, Durkin is a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown LLP. Once Obama signs Durkin’s judicial commission in the next several days, he will begin hearing cases.
In an interview from his office immediately after the vote, Durkin said he is excited about his new job.
“I’m honored to have been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and I look forward to joining a tremendous judiciary in the Northern District of Illinois,” Durkin said.
On the Senate floor on Monday afternoon, Durbin praised Durkin, whom he called “a consensus bipartisan nominee.”
“He’ll be an excellent federal district court judge,” Durbin said. “He has the qualifications, independence and integrity to serve in a distinguished manner on the bench.”
Durbin also noted that he had run against Durkin’s brother, Jim, who is a Republican, in the 2002 Senate race.
“Tom comes from an extraordinary family. The Durkin family is well-known throughout Chicago, especially in legal circles,” Durbin said. “I have great respect for Jim and Tom and their entire family.”
A University of Illinois graduate, Durkin spent 13 years as a federal prosecutor here from 1980 until 1993. After earning his law degree from DePaul University and serving a two-year clerkship with Chicago-based federal trial court judge Stanley Roszkowski, Durkin joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago in 1980 as an assistant U.S. attorney. In 1987, Durkin helped win the conviction of former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker on bank-fraud charges. Walker served 18 months behind bars.
Durkin also helped to secure the conviction of former Ald. Fred Roti on racketeering, bribery and extortion charges, and he also was part of the team of prosecutors that won the convictions of former State Sen. John D’Arco and former Cook County Chancery Court Judge David Shields. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1993, Durkin has tried more than 55 federal and state jury cases, focusing mostly on business litigation, as well as class-action lawsuits, patent litigation and product liability and medical defense, according to Mayer Brown’s website.
Durkin also served on the Downers Grove Grade School District 58’s board from 1993 until 1997, and served on the board of the Legal Assistance Foundation from 1999 until 2008.
Three vacancies remain on the Chicago federal trial court, which with Durkin’s confirmation will have 19 active judges. Obama has not named nominees for any of those vacant judgeships.