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Chicago’s newest federal judge has been tasked with handling one of Chicago’s most politically explosive legal actions, brought by a woman claiming Illinois Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, blackballed her after she complained a Madigan operative sexually harassed her.
On Sept. 16, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, chief judge of the Chicago-based U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, announced the lawsuit brought against Madigan and the Illinois Democratic Party, among others, had been among more than 340 other cases transferred to new U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger.
The Northern District court announced Seeger was sworn in as a District Court judge on Sept. 17.
Seeger had been appointed to the bench by President Donald Trump in June 2018 to replace Judge James Zagel, who had taken senior status in October 2016. The U.S. Senate confirmed Seeger’s nomination on Sept. 11, 2019, by a vote of 90-1.
According to a release from the Northern District announcing his installment as judge, Seeger earned his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and his law degree from the University of Michigan. After law school, Seeger clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle, a Reagan appointee, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, before Sentelle was succeeded as that circuit’s chief judge in 2013 by Judge Merrick Garland.
Seeger practiced law in Chicago for 12 years with the firm of Kirkland & Ellis. Since 2010, Seeger had served as senior trial counsel for the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
After receiving his judicial commission on Sept. 13, the Northern District release said Seeger was “randomly assigned” 342 civil cases. According to the order assigning those cases to Seeger, the cases now populating Seeger’s docket were culled from the dockets of his colleagues on the Northern District bench.
Among those cases reassigned to Judge Seeger is the lawsuit brought Hampton against Speaker Madigan, considered by many to be Illinois’ most powerful political figure.
The case had been previously handled by U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.
Hampton had sued Madigan, his campaign organizations and the Illinois Democratic Party in March 2018 in federal court. She alleged the defendants did not do enough to address her complaints she was allegedly harassed by Democratic Party staffer Kevin Quinn, and then retaliated against her for lodging the complaints.
According to her lawsuit, while she worked on Democratic campaigns in 2016-2017, Kevin Quinn, her supervisor, allegedly subjected her to “severe and pervasive sexual harassment” by seeking a “romantic relationship” with her.
Kevin Quinn is brother of Chicago Alderman Marty Quinn.
Hampton said she rebuffed Kevin Quinn and eventually complained to Madigan, Marty Quinn and Madigan lawyer, Heather Weir Vaught. However, after they allegedly did little in response, she left the campaign job allegedly out of fear from being forced to continue to work with Kevin Quinn.
The day after Hampton’s suit was filed and it was reported in the press, Madigan’s office announced Kevin Quinn had been fired.
Hampton has alleged Madigan and his fellow Democrats have since blackballed her from political jobs, including an election season post with the Chicago Teachers Union. She has specifically claimed a job offer with the CTU was retracted, after a CTU lobbyist told her union officials had learned she was “on the outs” with Marty Quinn.
The case remains pending and, according to the docket, is in the discovery phase. That is to be completed in February, according to an order posted on Sept. 3 by Judge Ellis.
Hampton is represented by attorneys Shelly B. Kulwin, Jeffrey R. Kulwin and Rachel A. Katz, of Kulwin Masciopinto & Kulwin, of Chicago.
Madigan’s organizations and the Democratic Party are represented by James M. Lydon, Aimee E. Delaney and Leigh C. Bonsall, of Hinshaw & Culbertson, of Chicago.