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Democrat stalwart said to be U.S. attorney nominee

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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."

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  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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