February 16, 2004

Alexander to chair judge selection committee

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Peter C. Alexander, dean of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale law school, will chair the selection committee for a new magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Alexander will lead an 11-member committee that will review applications and present five finalists to the four district judges for consideration. District court Chief Judge G. Patrick Murphy selected Alexander to chair the committee.

The committee will convene March 1 to begin the process to replace Magistrate Judge Gerald B. Cohn, who is retiring in January after serving as a magistrate judge since 1981.

Murphy expects to have the candidates’ applications to the committee on March 1. The committee has 90 days to select five finalists, Murphy said. The district judges will then select the new magistrate judge from among that group.

Alexander “certainly has no particular ax to grind, and he understands the importance of us getting the best magistrate available,” said Murphy.

“He is just a very capable person. I can’t imagine you could find somebody better to do this job,” said Murphy, adding that Alexander is also sensitive to diversity issues.

Alexander earned a bachelor’s degree from SIUC in 1979, and a law degree from the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston in 1983. He then served as a law clerk for the U.S. District Court in Danville until 1985, before going into private practice. He came to SIUC in June from Penn State University, where he was a law professor.

Alexander said he is excited about his selection.

“It’s an honor to have been selected. I hope I can do a good job for the Southern District of Illinois,” he said.
Last year, Alexander served on a merit selection search committee for a bankruptcy judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

“It takes a lot of time and commitment from all of the members of the selection committee. But I think we are up to the task,” he said.

Having a person of Alexander’s caliber lead the search committee is “critical” to the process, Murphy said.

“You have to have that. We want to have the confidence of the public,” Murphy said. “People need to know that this is a straight system, and it’s not going to be a political appointment. Then you have to have someone who is first-rate and competent. He knows what it will take. I know he is going to send us the five best applicants.”

The names of other selection committee members will be released once they have confirmed they will serve, Murphy said.

The Southern District of Illinois is comprised of the 38 southernmost counties in the state.

Federal magistrate judges handle pretrial matters in both criminal and civil cases, and preside over civil trials where the parties stipulate to the arrangement. Magistrate judges are appointed for eight-year terms.