On April 25, 2022, President Biden nominated Nancy Maldonado to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Ms. Maldonado is a labor and employment attorney who has dedicated her career to representing workers. A partner at leading civil rights firm Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C., she has litigated extensively in the Northern District. She would be the first Latina to serve as a federal judge in the state of Illinois and the Seventh Circuit, which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Ms. Maldonado was born in Skokie, Illinois to parents who had migrated from Puerto Rico. Ms. Maldonado graduated from Harvard College cum laude in 1997, where she was on the Dean’s List all four years. Before law school, she was a paralegal at Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C., a small civil rights firm where she is currently a partner. She earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2001. At Columbia, she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and served on the editorial board of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. She also completed internships at Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos, a Peruvian human rights organization, and interned at top law firms such as Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. After law school, Ms. Maldonado completed a clerkship with Judge Rubén Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
After her clerkship, Ms. Maldonado returned to Miner, Barnhill & Garland, P.C. as an Associate in 2003. Ms. Maldonado was then promoted to Partner in 2010. Her work at the firm, detailed below, has largely been in federal court and has focused on representing plaintiffs in labor and employment, civil rights, and fraud cases.
While practicing at Miner, Barnhill & Garland, P.C., Ms. Maldonado also served in state government. For example, in 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker appointed her to the Illinois State Police Merit Board; the Board selects state police officers through a fair and equitable process and is responsible for the promotion and discipline of these officers. More recently, in 2021, the Illinois Attorney General appointed her to serve as a Special Assistant Attorney General investigating consumer fraud. Ms. Maldonado has also been selected to serve as a monitor of numerous consent decrees resolving employment cases brought by the Illinois Attorney General.
Ms. Maldonado has litigated a wide range of civil rights cases outside of the employment context. She has protected First Amendment rights, challenged racially discriminatory policies, and defended reproductive rights. For example, in Brighton Park Neighborhood Council v. Berrios, she represented three community organizations that alleged that the Cook County Assessor discriminated against Black and Latinx property owners by illegally shifting property tax burdens from white property owners to Black and Latinx property owners. The organizations brought claims under the Fourteenth Amendment, Fair Housing Act, and state law. After the suit was filed, a new Cook County Assessor was elected, leading to reforms and the ultimate voluntary dismissal of the claims.
In Vergara v. City of Waukegan, Ms. Maldonado represented residents of the City of Waukegan who sued their city for violations of the First Amendment. The residents claimed that their First Amendment rights were violated because of their opposition to a City ordinance, they were denied entrance to a city council meeting, retaliated against, and prevented from gathering. The Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgement to two plaintiffs and denied the City officials’ claims of qualified immunity. After the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court decision, the parties settled.
Labor and Employment
Ms. Maldonado has represented many individuals in employment discrimination cases. For example, in Abreu v. City of Chicago, Ms. Maldonado represents a Puerto Rican bricklayer who faced severe discrimination at work when a supervisor called him racial slurs and tried to push him into a six-foot hole on a jobsite. Mr. Abreu brought claims under Title VII, the Fourteenth Amendment, and state law. The case is still pending with a trial set for June 2022. In Butler v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co., Ms. Maldonado represented a customer service phone operator who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and denied protection under the Family Medical Leave Act. Under her representation, the judge declined the defendant’s efforts to dismiss the case early in the litigation.
In Stuart v. Local 727, Ms. Maldonado represented Ms. Stuart, who sued her union under Title VII, alleging sex discrimination. Ms. Stuart claimed that because of her sex, the union failed to refer her for driving jobs on television and movie sets. Drivers on television and movie sets made about twice the wage of other bus drivers, but a woman had never been referred to perform any of those jobs. The case was initially thrown out by the district court, but Ms. Maldonado persuaded the Seventh Circuit to reverse the dismissal (the panel also reassigned the case, citing the district judge’s “unmistakable . . . tone of derision”). The parties ultimately settled.
Ms. Maldonado also has significant class action experience. In Ortega v. Leslie Farms, she represented migrant farmworkers in a class action lawsuit. The workers claimed that, among other things, their employers violated state labor law by failing to pay overtime wages and provide mandatory breaks; following discovery, the parties settled the case. In Hernandez v. Kovacevich, Ms. Maldonado represented seasonal farmworkers who worked at fruit farms. The workers claimed that their employers violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and state law by requiring them to perform unpaid, off-the-clock work before the start of their shifts. After class certification, the parties settled and class members received significant compensation.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Ms. Maldonado has done significant community work. She has served on the Board of Directors of La Casa Norte, an organization that serves homeless youth and families; Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; and Apna Ghar (Our Home), a gender justice organization. Ms. Maldonado also founded the non-profit Chicago Yoga Project, an organization aimed at promoting non-violence through yoga classes and teacher training.
Ms. Maldonado has received numerous awards including Mentor of the Year, Hispanic Lawyers’ Association of Illinois; Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow, Harvard Law School; and Notable Minority Lawyer by Crain’s Chicago Business.