ILNews

Senate confirms Von Bokkelen for U.S. District judgeship

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A federal prosecutor in northern Indiana will be the newest member of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Hammond.

The full U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen's appointment Thursday, meaning he will succeed retiring Judge Rudy Lozano who is taking senior status.

President George W. Bush, who nominated the veteran trial lawyer, still needs to sign Van Bokkelen's appointment, which he could do after Judge Lozano steps down after July 10. Van Bokkelen would be sworn in after that.

The president nominated Von Bokkelen after being recommended in November by Sen. Richard Lugar, whose office sent a news release late Thursday afternoon congratulating Von Bokkelen and crediting his prosecutor experience for the confirmation.

"His performance as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana has been nothing short of remarkable and I am confident that he will approach his judgeship with the same enthusiasm and proficiency," the release said.

During the confirmation hearing before the 19-member committee in April, Von Bokkelen answered questions that ranged from background, how Von Bokkelen would fairly consider cases that could come before the court from prosecutors he once worked with, and his views on the ongoing U.S. attorney firing controversy in regard to the proper balance between prosecutorial independence and the presidential prerogative to appoint nominees.

He also noted three judges in particular whom he's looked up to during his career: 7th Circuit Judge Michael Kanne, who hailed from the Northern District of Indiana; deceased Northern District Judge Phil McNagy Jr., who was a former assistant U.S. attorney; and St. Joseph Judge George Beamer, who Von Bokkelen described as being a role model and mentor in his role as prosecutor.

Since his appointment as a federal prosecutor in 2001, Van Bokkelen has prosecuted hundreds of guns and drug cases and built a reputation for aggressively prosecuting public corruption. He led the highly publicized Operation Restore Public Integrity, a wide-ranging corruption probe that targeted some of northwest Indiana's most powerful political figures. His office has sent to prison more than 30 public officials, including former U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hall, former state Democratic Party Chair Peter Manous, and former Lake County auditor and assessor Peter Benjamin. The office also took on politicians in East Chicago, sending city officials and contractors to prison for a sidewalks-for-votes scheme designed to help re-elect Mayor Robert Pastrick.

Before becoming U.S. attorney, Van Bokkelen practiced law in Highland and concentrated his practice in litigation and criminal defense. He was also an assistant federal prosecutor and a special assistant to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office.
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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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