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Praising new judicial selections

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The Hoosier legal community is publicly praising the newest nominees for the state's federal bench as good choices, particularly for those interested in seeing a more diverse judiciary.

The White House announced Jan. 20 that Jon E. DeGuilio , U.S. Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson and Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt would be nominated for three openings in the state's two U.S. District Courts.

This came two days after Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, made the announcement about the nominations at the federal courthouse in Indianapolis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In the Northern District, the nominee would fill the void left by Judge Allen Sharp, who died in July after serving in senior status for about two years. The Southern District seats are open after Judge Larry McKinney took senior status in July and Judge David F. Hamilton was elevated in November to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

While the triple-announcement comes as a first in the number of Hoosier judicial nominations made at the same time, Judge Pratt represents a historic milestone in that she'd be the first African-American to hold a seat on the federal bench in Indiana. Also, if Judges Pratt and Magnus-Stinson are approved, this would double from two to four the number of women on Indiana's federal bench.

The nominations come just as a new University of Albany study shows that female representation among the federal judiciary is lacking nationally - women make up 22 percent of all federal judgeships, with most states at the 20 percent mark and only Connecticut and New Jersey hitting the 33 percent mark. Currently, U.S. District Court Judges Sarah Evans Barker and Theresa Springmann put Indiana at the 20 percent mark, but if the new female nominees are confirmed, four of the 10 federal judges would be women.

Aside from the historic nature of the female nominees, Bayh described all three as being "recognized leaders in the Indiana legal community, demonstrating experience, insight, and non-ideological temperament that Hoosiers should expect from their judges. Indiana's Republican Sen. Dick Lugar praised his colleague's deliberative process in choosing these three, whom he also describes as legal community leaders.

DeGuilio currently serves as general counsel and vice president for Peoples Bank in northwest Indiana, after his six years in the 1990s as chief federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Indiana, and a stint as Lake County prosecutor and as a public defender there. He's also worked as a partner at the South Bend office of Barnes & Thornburg.

Magistrate Judge Magnus-Stinson started at the Marion Superior Court in the mid-90s and through the years presided over every type of felony case before moving to the federal bench in January 2007 to replace the retiring Magistrate Judge V. Sue Shields. Prior to the state bench, she served as counsel and deputy chief of staff to then-Gov. Bayh; she also worked in the civil litigation practice at LewisWagner for seven years before that.

Judge Pratt is on the Marion Superior bench, currently presiding over civil and probate cases after many years of handling major felony cases. She also has served on the Marion Superior Court's executive committee. She was a family law and probate attorney and a deputy public defender prior to taking the bench.

The first step for each of the nominees is the Senate Judiciary, which must approve a nomination before sending it to the full Senate for consideration. No timeline exists on the confirmation process, but the past four Indiana judicial nominees have taken anywhere from four to eight months. Nationally, other judicial nominations have been delayed for years when opposition arose.

In the legal community, attorneys asked about their thoughts on the nominations expressed satisfaction about each of the nominees whom they've practiced with or appeared before either in state or federal court.

Attorney Larry Evans at Valparaiso law firm Hoeppner Wagner & Evans, a frequent practitioner in federal court, said he's known DeGuilio through bar association and other connections through the years. Even though he hasn't had experience on the bench, Evans said he thinks his colleague is well qualified and has the ideal temperament, judicial demeanor, and overall intellect for the bench.

"That's not necessarily a good thing," he said about only having nominees who've presided on the bench. "That's the European model, where you're trained to become a judge right out of law school. But that's not how our system operates."

Other attorneys in the Northern District, such as Bill Padula in Munster and T. Edward Page in Merrillville, said that DeGuilio would make a fine addition to the federal bench because of his professionalism, temperament, and sharp legal mind. For DeGuilio, federal dockets show his name appearing in 40 criminal, civil, and bankruptcy cases through the years, mostly in the mid-90s.

In the Southern District, Indianapolis criminal defense attorney D. Alan Ladd spoke highly of the two nominees there, echoing the comments made by other attorneys. He's appeared before both and has found them to be fair and evenhanded.

Particularly, he praised how Judge Pratt moved from the criminal to probate side following the death of longtime Superior Judge Charles Deiter in late 2008.

"That was not an easy transition for anyone because it's a total change of gears, but she's very bright and thoughtful and did it so well for everyone involved," he said. "They both have great temperament and I'm pleased to see them both nominated."

Indianapolis attorney John Kautzman at Ruckelshaus Kautzman Blackwell Bemis & Hasbrook also said he has experience appearing before both Southern District nominees.

"I always favor judges who have trial court experience," he said. "That's a valuable resource to draw upon, and I think it makes them better federal judges."

He's found both to have an unusual and uncanny ability to cut through miscellaneous and complex issues and get right to the heart of a matter, and make practical decisions for all parties.

"That's a strong and important trait for any judge," he said.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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