Committee queries federal nominees

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The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee had a chance to ask questions of Indiana's three judicial nominees Feb. 11, and it's now poised to decide whether the full Senate should have a chance to consider them for the federal bench.

Almost a month after the White House nominated them to fill vacancies in Indiana's two District Courts, nominees Jon DeGuilio for the Northern District of Indiana, and Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson for the Southern District of Indiana faced questions from the committee in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who was the only member of the minority party to attend the hearing, directed a handful of questions at each person. Receiving the fewest and least-specific questions was DeGuilio, who is legal counsel for Peoples Bank and has served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana and Lake County prosecutor. Generally, DeGuilio joined the other nominees in saying he was familiar with and would respect the federal criminal sentencing guidelines, as well as established precedent.

But the female jurists received specific questions from Sessions, who questioned their views and handling of criminal sentencing issues. Specifically, he referred to a time on the state court bench when Magistrate Magnus-Stinson asked to not be assigned to cases involving the death penalty. Magistrate Magnus-Stinson said she'd consulted the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission, which advised her then to not make any public statements about the issue and that advice still applies.

He also asked Judge Pratt about a case in which she allowed for a burglary convict's transfer from state prison to a low-security facility over the prosecutor's objections, as allowed by state statute. The convict escaped and was involved in a murder for which he was later convicted. Sessions asked the judge to explain her decision and how that experience impacted her. She said it was a learning experience that illustrated how important judicial decisions are on the community.

In addition to those questions, the three also explained their experience and how that has prepared them for a federal judgeship, and how they view the responsibility of being on the bench.

Senators have the weeklong Presidents Day break to submit additional statements for the record before the nominations are ready for their review and possible voting. Each nominee has submitted a public questionnaire, which can be viewed online at the Senate Judiciary Committee's Web site at

No timeline exists for when the committee must vote, but that could happen as soon as the next scheduled executive business meeting Feb. 25. That is also when senators are expected to discuss the longdelayed nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who's been chosen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel but has faced delays from Republican senators since her initial nomination in early 2009. The committee didn't have enough members present at a Feb. 11 meeting to discuss her nomination.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues