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Vilardo appears before Senate Judiciary Committee on nomination for U.S. District Court

Lawrence J. Vilardo, the local attorney and Harvard Law School graduate nominated for a federal judgeship in Buffalo, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, one of the last steps in his confirmation process.

In a broadcast of the proceedings from Washington, Vilardo answered questions about his private law practice – he’s a partner with defense attorney Terrence M. Connors – and how he would, as a fair and impartial judge, handle cases he used to handle as an private attorney and advocate.

“I would handle them the same way I handle all cases; that is, fairly and impartially by applying the rule of law,” Vilardo told Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, the Republican presiding over the hearing.

Tillis asked Vilardo specifically about his history of defending clients against whistleblower complaints and how he would, as a federal judge, oversee those type of cases.

Surrounded by family and friends, Vilardo said district judges are not elected and therefore are expected to remain independent.

“They decide cases based on what the law is, not what the law should be, not on what they think the law ought to be or what they wished it would be,” he told Tillis.

When asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., what he learned as a federal court clerk fresh out of Harvard, Vilardo said it was the importance of making decisions and remaining impartial.

Vilardo was introduced by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the committee and the senator who recommended him to President Obama.

“Buffalo has one of the busiest federal court systems in the country, and also one of the worst backlog of cases,” Schumer said in his introduction. “It takes about five years for a median (civil) case to go to trial.”

A vote of Vilardo’s nomination is expected this month.