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CHICAGO-When U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve took the bench in 2002, Scott Lassar, a former boss, told the court’s chief judge that he had better double the usual workload for her or she might run out of things to do. Fate heard his recommendation. St. Eve, 41, this year has randomly received three of the most high-profile, work-intensive cases passing through the Northern District of Illinois, putting her rulings and performance in the spotlight. She’s overseeing the prosecutions of former Hollinger International Inc. Chairman Conrad Black, alleged terrorist fundraiser Muhammad Salah, and a group of individuals involved in an Illinois teachers’ pension fund fraud scheme. USA v. Salah, No. 03-00978 (N.D. Ill.); USA v. Levine, No. 06-00691 (N.D. Ill.); and USA v. Black, No. 05-727 (N.D. Ill.). The high-profile test St. Eve, who has been on the bench for four years, so far has won the praise of the legal community, having been rated one of the top judges in the district in a survey by the Chicago Council of Lawyers. The three cases will be a new test of her rising reputation as she enters areas of law with few precedents, faces more than the usual press attention and juggles some 200 other cases in her docket. “You get a few high-profile cases with novel elements to them, they’re going to require work,” said Stephen Schiller, a former Cook County Circuit Court judge who now works as a mediator. St. Eve, who has three children under the age of 10, said in a recent interview that she relies on her “working mother’s efficiency” to keep cases flowing. She said the patience she’s developed from being a parent also helps. The judge, who gets to her office at 6 a.m., is accommodating the Salah trial by starting hearings earlier in the day and leaving her office later. She’s also probably taking home more work than in the past and spending more time on criminal matters, while wading into “unique” issues in the Salah trial, she said. Some of her rulings on civil matters may be slowing a bit as a result, she said. Michael Deutsch, an attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago who is representing Salah, said that St. Eve “listens and is very well versed on facts of the case,” in addition to having a “pleasant demeanor.” He declined to talk about her rulings, but said she keeps things moving. St. Eve was “amazingly productive” as an assistant U.S. attorney because she’s decisive, said Lassar, who hired her as a prosecutor in Chicago in 1996. “If you can’t make up your mind it doesn’t matter how smart you are,” said Lassar, now a partner in Sidley Austin’s Chicago office. “She doesn’t dwell on things for too long. She’s able to pull the trigger.” St. Eve tightened courtroom rules to increase security for the Salah trial. When some news organizations, including The National Law Journal, balked at restrictions on entering and leaving the courtroom, St. Eve said she was open to supplementing the rules, but not to easing them. “She’s tough when she needs to be tough,” said Ed Jepson, an attorney at Chicago’s Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz who had a case before St. Eve recently. “She’s a very quick study.” St. Eve, who graduated first in her Cornell Law School class in 1990, worked four years at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York before joining then-Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation team in 1994. Working on the case with Starr, “a scholar and a gentleman,” was a highlight in her career, she said. After five years in the U.S. attorney’s office, St. Eve left to become a litigator for Abbott Laboratories. The following year, then-Senator Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., backed her, and President George W. Bush nominated her, to serve on the federal bench. A prosecutor’s perspective St. Eve said she learned about trying cases, courtroom demeanor and other aspects of being a judge by arguing as a prosecutor before the judges who are now her peers. “Some of the best advice I got when I came on the bench is that lawyers want rulings,” St. Eve said. Still, some lawyers have seen a backup with St. Eve lately. Stephen Libowsky, a Howrey attorney in Chicago who recently had a case before her, said she’s smart in using the electronic filing system, but missed a self-imposed ruling date five or six times. “When you’re ready to rule, especially with the electronic system, just rule,” Libowsky advised.

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