Quinn Emanuel's Chicago leader to depart for state judgeship

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

(Reuters) - Stephen Swedlow, the co-managing partner of law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan's Chicago office, is set to leave his litigation practice to join the Cook County bench.

Swedlow's six-year term as a Cook County circuit judge will begin Dec. 5, about a month after he ran unopposed in the Nov. 8 election.

Swedlow has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in private practice at Quinn Emanuel, playing lead roles in trade secrets litigation against Apple Inc and class action claims against Facebook.

Partner profits averaged $5.74 million at the firm last year, according to The American Lawyer. As a Cook County circuit judge, Swedlow will make $216,297 a year.

Swedlow contributed $950,000 to his own campaign, according state election disclosures.

New judges are assigned to the Cook County court's traffic division, which is a "good training ground" for incoming judges, a court spokesperson said.

In an email, Swedlow said joining the judiciary was a goal ever since he clerked from 1995 to 1996 for Jerome Farris, a judge of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals who died in 2020.

"It will be a big change to be the judge and I might miss the competition of being a litigant at trial," Swedlow said. "I have achieved pretty much all that can be achieved in civil practice and have tried to leave all my cases and clients to other QE partners."

At Quinn Emanuel, Swedlow was the lead attorney for a class of health insurers who won $3.7 billion from the federal government under an Obamacare program, earning a $185 million fee award for the firm.

A group of insurers has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to overturn to overturn the fee award, calling it "untenable."

Swedlow was also the co-lead counsel for a class of plaintiffs who claim Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc exploited user data to thwart industry competitors. Meta has denied the claims.

Last week, Quinn Emanuel informed the federal judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge James Donato, about Swedlow's impending departure from the firm and asked that he be replaced as co-lead counsel by Kevin Teruya, a Los Angeles-based partner.

Swedlow is one of at least two Chicago lawyers who will be leaving private practice at a large law firm for the Cook County bench. The other is Michael Weaver, the pro bono litigation partner at McDermott Will & Emery.

Weaver did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for McDermott.

It is common for Cook County judicial races to have competitive Democratic primaries but unopposed general contests — the Nov. 8 general election had only one contested judicial race between a Democrat and a Republican.

Swedlow defeated fellow Democrat Jennifer Bae, the employee discipline director at the Cook County Sheriff's Office, in June.

Weaver beat civil litigator Deidre Baumann and Cook County prosecutor Paul Joyce in the Democratic primary.

Read more:

Health insurers balk at Quinn Emanuel's 'astronomical' $185 million fee award

Facebook loses bid to dismiss users’ data-privacy antitrust claims

Quinn Emanuel awarded $185 million in fees for Obamacare case

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.