Indiana Sens. Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats have begun the process for selecting a candidate to fill the vacancy coming to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The vacancy is being created by Judge Sarah Evans Barker’s decision to take senior status effective June 30. Barker will remain on the bench until her replacement is confirmed after which she plans to dial back her case load to 80 percent.
Donnelly, a Democrat, and Coats, a Republican, issued a joint call Monday for applications from any candidates interested in becoming a member of the federal bench. The senators want to make the process clear and transparent and ensure that all qualified individuals in the legal community who are interested in the position have the opportunity to put their name forward.
Information about the process and applications are available online at www.donnelly.senate.gov/judge. The candidates should highlight their qualifications and reason for seeking the nomination. Questions on the application are based on the U.S. Senate judicial questionnaire.
The application deadline is 5 p.m. EDT May 12.
Both Indiana senators thanked Barker for her years as a federal judge for the Southern District.
“We have been very lucky to have the benefit of her wisdom and judgment. A Mishawaka, Ind., native, she has dedicated most of her career to government service,” Donnelly said. “In addition to her tenure on the District Court, Judge Barker served as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and on the staff of a U.S. Senator, U.S. Senate Committee and a U.S. Representative.”
Once the applications have been submitted, Donnelly and Coats will review the candidates then make recommendations to President Barack Obama. Traditionally, the president has chosen an individual from the recommendations made by the home state senators. That individual will then undergo the Senate confirmation process.
Coats pointed out the senators’ role in the federal judicial process.
“Federal judges are appointed for life and play a crucial role in our judicial system,” Coats said. “One of my constitutionally defined duties as a Senator is to provide advice and consent to the President on federal judicial nominees, and I take this responsibility seriously.”
How long the confirmation process can take and whether anyone will be confirmed this year is unknown.
In an interview about her decision to take senior status, Barker acknowledged getting a replacement could take a long time.
“I will stay on until my successor is appointed which I have said in private asides, given the struggles Congress has getting these judges through the pipeline, it may be the rest of my natural life that I’m sitting here having made that offer to stay until my successor’s appointed,” Barker said.