Judge Pratt makes history in move to federal bench

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With approval from the U.S. Senate, Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is ready to make a historic move to the state’s federal court system.

Senators voted unanimously today to confirm Judge Pratt to the Southern District of Indiana, meaning she’ll be the state’s first African-American federal judge and one of four female jurists on Indiana's federal bench.

This completes a nomination process that began in January with an announcement from Indiana’s Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and nomination by President Barack Obama, followed by unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

Senators started discussion about 11:35 a.m. on the nominations of Judge Pratt and two other judicial nominees, but they didn’t discuss or debate any of the nominees specifically and no one raised any concerns before the voting process started about 11:50 a.m. An official vote came at 12:13 p.m.

“This (process) has been a test of patience, but I'm so very happy and honored,” Judge Pratt said moments after the vote, which she watched online from her office in the City-County Building. “I do respect the historic significance of being the first African-American in the state to join the federal bench, and that's really a credit to Sen. Bayh for looking outside the traditional group of candidates to be inclusive.”

She succeeds Judge David F. Hamilton, who moved up to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals late last year. Judge Pratt starts her new position once the president signs her commission in the coming days, and she expects the transition to officially take effect by June 25. She expects logistical details and interviews with federal courtroom staff to happen soon.

The move means she’ll resign from Marion Superior Court, where she has presided over the Probate Division since December 2008. Before taking on that role, she served as a criminal division judge since 1997, handling major felonies and presiding over 20 to 35 jury trials a year. Judge Pratt was first elected in 1996, but had served as a master commissioner in Marion Superior Court since 1993 after practicing privately.

Once she transitions to the federal bench, Judge Pratt will join Judges Sarah Evans Barker and Jane Magnus-Stinson in the Southern District of Indiana and Judge Theresa Springmann in the Northern District of Indiana as the state’s only federal female jurists.

Her confirmation comes a day after the Southern District of Indiana administered the oath to Judge Magnus-Stinson, who was nominated at the same time in January and the Senate confirmed unanimously on June 7. She had served as a magistrate since early 2007, moving from the Marion Superior bench.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is responsible for choosing a successor for Judge Pratt on Marion Superior Court, and that process officially starts once the governor’s office receives her resignation letter, said general counsel David Pippen. He expects a 30-day application process for those interested in the judicial spot, and then interviews will be conducted. Pippen said an exact timeline for the entire process isn’t clear and depends on the number of applicants and overall scheduling, which also overlaps with the search for a new Indiana Supreme Court justice once interviews begin in early July.

Whoever is chosen will be of the same political party, Democrat, as Judge Pratt, and that person will fulfill the remainder of her term that runs through 2014.


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise