ILNews

Democrat stalwart said to be U.S. attorney nominee

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share


The U.S. Attorney's Office in Southern District of Indiana has been without a presidentially appointed U.S. attorney for more than two years - an extraordinarily long stretch for a position that usually can be filled in half that time.

Political watchers point to President Barack Obama's taking longer than his past two predecessors to fill the nation's top 93 federal prosecutor appointments. In the Northern District of Indiana, the president nominated acting U.S. Attorney David Capp in late December to fill that district's vacancy. Capp has been interim U.S. Attorney since July 2007 when then U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen joined the District Court. His nomination is still awaiting confirmation. But in Indianapolis, another factor is contributing to the delay.

Sources said high-profile trial lawyer Linda Pence in October withdrew her candidacy, which was fronted by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, several months into the routine, yet extensive, vetting process.

Now the frontrunner for the post is Joe Hogsett, another Indianapolis lawyer, according to sources including Ed Treacy, chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party.

Neither Pence nor Hogsett would discuss details of their nominations, which they refused to even acknowledge.

Pence, who practices at the Indianapolis office of Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister, is a veteran white-collar criminal litigator. Her credentials include working at the Department of Justice from 1974 to 1983.

Hogsett, a partner at Indianapolis-based Bingham McHale, served as Indiana Secretary of State from 1989 to 1994, and was chief of staff for then-Gov. Bayh from 1995 to 1997.

"I think either one of them would make an excellent U.S. attorney," Treacy said. "Hopefully, they can get something done soon."

Because Bayh is foregoing an attempt at re-election in November, Treacy and other political insiders think a new U.S. attorney in Indianapolis could be named before he leaves office. Bayh gets to submit a candidate to the president because he's Indiana's senior senator belonging to the party occupying the White House. Phone calls to Sen. Bayh's office in Washington, D.C., were not returned.

After Obama's first year in office, just a third of his nominations had been confirmed by Congress, compared with more than half at roughly the same time under former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

"One might expect things to move more quickly, but this president has been slower to nominate U.S. attorney positions," said David Orentlicher, a former state representative and professor at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis.

Both Orentlicher and Treacy attributed some of the cause for the delay to partisan politics.

"Because of the difficulty of the Republicans in the Senate holding everything up, that it would take such a long time to get done, [Pence] withdrew her name from being considered," Treacy said.

Senate-confirmed appointments to Department of Justice offices, particularly U.S. attorneys, are political in nature. They serve under the direction of the Attorney General and conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is involved. That includes the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the federal government, and the prosecution and defense of civil suits. Yet they really don't set policy but follow the strategies deemed important by the new administration, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks said.

In Indianapolis, the U.S. attorney manages a staff of about 80, including roughly 30 lawyers.

The Southern District has been without a presidentially appointed U.S. attorney since Brooks left in October 2007, about a year before Obama was elected president. Given the short time remaining before the election, political experts said it wouldn't have made much sense for Bush to nominate a successor.

Brooks, now general counsel and vice president of work force and economic development at Ivy Tech Community College, can appreciate what Pence endured.

Background checks conducted by the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are quite extensive and typically comb through a candidate's past dating to his or her college years.

Criminal, political and financial histories are explored, as well as even the views expressed in written documents, said Brooks, whose nomination took 10 months to get confirmed in October 2001.

Brooks doesn't fault former President Bush for failing to recommend a replacement for her. But the time that has elapsed without a permanent U.S. attorney is "what's getting long now," she said. Such an extended period of time without a permanent replacement can create uncertainties, said John Maley, a partner at Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg, who has a large federal practice. "It's not something that you would want to leave open indefinitely," he said, "just in terms of continuity and expectations and those types of things."

Moreover, having an interim U.S. attorney likely means the staff is short one lawyer, who is filling the position, Maley said.

That person would be Tim Morrison, a 20-year veteran of the Department of Justice, who has served as interim U.S. attorney twice before - in October 1993, and from February 2000 to October 2001. Morrison, who declined to specify a political slant, said he's not interested in being nominated for the job. "Politics has nothing to do with it," he said. "It's because I want to stay." U.S. attorneys are prevented from working in any position in the offices after they have finished serving. Morrison, like many of the lawyers on staff, boasts several years of federal legal experience. Newly appointed U.S. attorneys typically are prohibited from replacing staff, making turnover rare despite the enticements of a more lucrative private practice.

"They stay there because they love the work," Brooks said. "I think they love the fact that their client is the United States of America."

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. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  2. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

  3. She must be a great lawyer

  4. Ind. Courts - "Illinois ranks 49th for how court system serves disadvantaged" What about Indiana? A story today from Dave Collins of the AP, here published in the Benton Illinois Evening News, begins: Illinois' court system had the third-worst score in the nation among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, according to new rankings. Illinois' "Justice Index" score of 34.5 out of 100, determined by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, is based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues. Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9. At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana. ILB: That puts Indiana at 46th worse. More from the story: Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores. Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses. The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/11/ind_courts_illi_1.html

  5. A very thorough opinion by the federal court. The Rooker-Feldman analysis, in particular, helps clear up muddy water as to the entanglement issue. Looks like the Seventh Circuit is willing to let its district courts cruise much closer to the Indiana Supreme Court's shorelines than most thought likely, at least when the ADA on the docket. Some could argue that this case and Praekel, taken together, paint a rather unflattering picture of how the lower courts are being advised as to their duties under the ADA. A read of the DOJ amicus in Praekel seems to demonstrate a less-than-congenial view toward the higher echelons in the bureaucracy.

ADVERTISEMENT