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No Hoosiers in recent round of judicial nominees

July 14, 2017

Of the 11 nominees tapped Thursday by the White House to fill vacancies on federal district courts, none were for the open seats in Indiana.

President Donald Trump announced his picks for federal judgeships in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Oklahoma. The list includes individual candidate for vacancies in the Northern District of Georgia, the Middle District of Tennessee and the Eastern District of North Carolina, all designated as judicial emergencies by the U.S. Courts administration because of the caseloads.

Indiana has two openings in its district courts. The Southern District of Indiana has had a vacancy for 1,110 days since Judge Sarah Evans Barker took senior status in June 2014. That unfilled spot has been identified as a judicial emergency.

In the Northern District of Indiana, a seat has been vacant since Judge Robert Miller Jr. took senior status in January 2016. Another seat will be opening in September when Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen is scheduled to take senior status.

Earlier in the spring, Republican Indiana Sen. Todd Young put out a call for applications for the judicial vacancies as well as the openings in the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal offices in the state. The senator’s office said a number of well-qualified candidates have been interviewed and Young has had conversations about the vacancies with the White House.

Young had no timeline for when the nominees would be announced but said he would like the vacancies filled as quickly as possible to avoid a backlog in the courts.

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, Democrat, has been kept informed about the process, Young’s office said, but the two are not working jointly to select potential nominees.

In May, the White House nominated Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett for the Indiana seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. She has not had a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

During his final year in office, President Barack Obama nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Indiana Winfield Ong and former Indiana Justice Myra Selby for the Southern Indiana District and 7th Circuit vacancies, respectively.

Ong received a hearing and was unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee on a voice but he never received a vote from the full Senate. Selby, whose nomination was blocked by then-Sen. Dan Coats, was not given a hearing by the committee. 

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