WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced Jeffrey J. Helmick, of Toledo, at his confirmation hearing today before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Helmick, a graduate of The Ohio State University Law School, has been nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. In May 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Helmick following a recommendation made by Brown and then-Sen. George V. Voinovich in August 2010. If confirmed, Helmick will fill the vacancy created by Judge James Carr, who assumed senior status on June 1, 2010.
“Jeffrey Helmick has a demonstrated commitment to the law and to justice. He’s the right choice for the federal bench,” Brown said. “Today, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have an opportunity to meet with Jeff so we can move forward on the important work of filling the vacancy for the Northern District of Ohio. I urge both parties to work together to bring Mr. Helmick’s nomination before the full Senate so that he can begin his critical and needed work in Northwest Ohio.”
If approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Helmick’s nomination must be approved next by the full Senate. Helmick’s nomination was based on the recommendation of a bipartisan judicial selection commission convened by Brown and Voinovich. The senators each nominated leaders in the legal community to serve on a 17-member bipartisan judicial advisory commission; to prevent any potential conflicts of interest, commission members residing in the Southern District of Ohio screened applicants for the Toledo vacancy.
Mr. Helmick received his J.D. from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution. He served on the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Legal Education and is a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Advisory Council for the Northern District of Ohio.
U.S. District Court judges are nominated by the President of the United States and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. District Courts are general trials courts that hear both civil and criminal cases.
Brown’s statement, as prepared for delivery, is below.
It is my pleasure to introduce Jeffrey Helmick of the State of Ohio, a brilliant and distinguished lawyer, who has been nominated to serve as the next judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, one of the great privileges of our job is meeting people who make us proud of our states. Jeff Helmick is a great example of that.
In 2007, then Senator George Voinovich, a Republican, and I assembled a commission of distinguished Ohio lawyers. It included leading including legal professionals from the southern district of the state – to suggest nominations for vacant judgeships in the Northern District of Ohio.
In June of 2010, U.S. District Court Judge James Carr took senior status, creating a vacancy in the Toledo court. Many very capable practicing attorneys and judges applied for the vacancy – all with distinguished records of service.
The members of the bipartisan commission spent a substantial amount of time screening, interviewing, and discussing the candidates. I spoke with almost every one of the 17 members. Each one was impressed by Jeff’s thoughtfulness, his temperament, and his reputation among his peers – including opposing counsel.
The chair of the commission, Nancy Rogers – a former Dean of OSU Law School and former Attorney General of Ohio – said that Jeff: “he has shown a commitment to integrity and to excellence – and a dedication to his community and to the administration of justice.” Based on the bipartisan commission’s recommendation, and based on my own judgment, I had no hesitation suggesting Jeff’s name to President Obama.
I’m honored that President Obama nominated him. And it is my hope that this committee now will act to approve his nomination.
The Toledo seat has already been vacant for more than 20 months. The Northern District of Ohio would benefit immensely from Jeff’s breadth of experience, which includes more than 20 years of legal practice.
He has worked in large law firms and small ones. He has tried complex business and corporate cases – counseling small business owners and large corporations. He has argued capital murder and terrorism cases – counseling defendants while working closely with U.S. Department of Justice officials, U.S. Attorneys, and federal and state authorities.
He has practiced in federal and state courts – and tried cases at the trial and appellate levels. In their totality, his experiences illustrate a skilled lawyer, an outstanding professional of the bar, and an imminently qualified nominee for the bench.
I did not know Jeff prior to the commission’s selection process. But those I have talked to who do know him well have only confirmed my impressions.
U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary has been a judge in the Northern District since 2006 – and six years ago today, he testified in front of this committee during his own confirmation hearing. He is currently the sole active judge of the court in the Western Division – who will be working most closely with whoever is appointed.
Judge Zouhary wrote to this committee recommending Jeff Helmick’s expedient confirmation. He wrote, “you will find no better candidate than Jeff. He possesses the intelligence, the passion for our justice system, and the necessary temperament and people skills to be an outstanding district court judge.”
Ohio State Senator Mark Wagoner is Chairman of the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee, a long-time member of the Toledo Bar Association and a Republican. State Senator Wagoner recommends Jeff for this position by saying, “he is someone who has stood for principles, litigated honestly, and ably defended our constitutional system of government. These types of traits would make Mr. Helmick an outstanding federal judge.”
Mr. Chairman, I would ask that Judge Zouhary and State Senator Wagoner’s letters be made part of the record.
In addition to having a brilliant legal mind, Jeff Helmick understands the needs and challenges facing the Northern District of Ohio – and our legal system generally. Rising costs of litigation and increasing size and scope of court dockets pose numerous challenges to any system of justice.
But it’s because of his experiences – and respect from fellow lawyers and judges he has worked with – that he is well prepared to meet these challenges.
He is a courtroom innovator – having worked with the courts to integrate cutting-edge technologies into courtrooms to ensure that the administration of justice is efficient, equal, fair, and open for all who seek it.
Outside the courtroom he is equally dedicated to serving the public. A supporter of pro-bono service, he volunteers at the Maumee Valley Criminal Defense Lawyers Association to improve the professionalism of lawyers and access to justice for the underserved. He is past president of the Pemberville Boys Ranch, which helps troubled young men who needed a home or safer environment to reach their potential.
Mr. Chairman, Jeffrey Helmick will make an outstanding judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. It is my honor to introduce Jeffrey Helmick to the members of the committee.