ILNews

Judge questioned again for nomination

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2009
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
 U.S. District Chief Judge David F. Hamilton of Indianapolis appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon for a rare second hearing on his nomination for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lawmakers convened the second nomination hearing following complaints from Republican senators in early April about a lack of preparation time for the first hearing, which happened April 1. That hearing was just days before the Senate's two-week break before Easter, and Hamilton answered questions before senators about his 14 years of experience on the federal bench. But some Republicans didn't attend and effectively boycotted the hearing, not necessarily because of any opposition to Judge Hamilton's nomination but to the "unreasonable pace" at which the panel was vetting the nominee.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Hamilton for the post on March 17, and the first hearing was set about a week later. If he gets approval from committee members, the judge would still need confirmation by the full Senate. If confirmed, he would replace Judge Kenneth Ripple who took senior status in September 2008.

Judge Hamilton joined two other nominees at this latest hearing: Thomas E. Perez for assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and U.S. Judge Andre Davis in the District of Maryland for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia.

"This is his second appearance.... He enjoyed himself so much last time, he decided he would come back," said Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Maryland, who chaired the meeting in place of Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont. "I regret that you have to come back."

But because no Republicans attended the first hearing or submitted written questions, this second hearing was necessary, Cardin said.

The judge responded to five questions from senators, ranging from his thoughts on the differences between the two federal judiciary levels, views on courts' reliance on or guidance from foreign law and rulings, and how he'd stand up for what may be unpopular. Only one Republican senator asked him questions in person, despite the party's insistence for the second hearing.

Judge Hamilton said courts might look to foreign scholars or judges for guidance, but that they are bound by U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the U.S. Constitution. That question came from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the party's ranking committee member. He also asked the judge about a remark he made during a 2003 speech at a memorial service for the late U.S. Judge S. Hugh Dillon, pertaining to a judge's job of writing footnotes to the Constitution.

Judge Hamilton said that's how his late colleague described the judiciary's work and it was a tribute to his memory.

"The concept of footnotes is not something new, but shows that what we're doing is to work out details about how those principals apply to new situations," he said.

Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., asked what differences the judicial nominees see between the District and Circuit levels. Judge Hamilton responded that he'd miss the trial work and seeing jurors and lawyers on a daily basis, but he'd welcome the chance to handle appellate work.

"I'd look forward to the possibility of engaging in legal issues that are left less to discretion of a particular District judge but apply more to the broader rule of law," the judge said.

Responding to a question from Cardin about work that might be dubbed "unpopular," Judge Hamilton pointed to work he'd done in private practice at Barnes & Thornburg about two decades ago, particularly when the U.S. was dealing with the first wave of the AIDS epidemic.

He led an appeal overturning a parental rights termination ruling by a state court that stripped away the rights of a father who'd tested HIV positive, and the judge also noted his work on the Ryan White case, when the child was told he couldn't attend school after contracting HIV through a blood transfusion. The judge also mentioned some of his rulings that might have been classified as unpopular, but he didn't elaborate on any.

"As a judge, I try not to go out of my way to be unpopular - that's not way we decide cases," he said. "Sometimes the right result is popular; sometimes it's unpopular. You just go with the right result."

After the hearing, the record remains open for a week for additional questions and comments, and the nominees are encouraged to answer promptly. Coburn said he'd be submitting a series of 20 written questions on behalf of Republican colleagues for each nominee to answer, but he didn't elaborate on those questions or why those couldn't have been submitted prior to this hearing for Judge Hamilton to consider.
ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  2. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  3. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  4. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  5. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

ADVERTISEMENT