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Committee questions Indiana judicial nominees

Michael W. Hoskins
February 11, 2010
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Indiana's three judicial nominees appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today to answer senators' questions nearly a month after they were tapped to fill openings in the state's federal courts.

Discussions regarding Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen have been delayed again. After two delays in the past 10 days, 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 joined three other nominees from different states in appearing before the committee in Washington, D.C.

This is the first step in the confirmation process, and this hearing preceded an Senate Judiciary executive business meeting where senators didn't have quorum to discuss the long-delayed nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who's been chosen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel. The next chance for that to happen will be following the weeklong President's Day break starting Monday. That time will also allow for senators to submit additional questions on the pending judicial nominations after today's discussion.

Following introductory remarks from Indiana's Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and a brief introductory statement from each nominee, the Hoosier nominees only faced questions from interim committee chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who was the only member of the minority party to attend the hearing. Sessions emphasized that this nomination hearing is the only real opportunity the American people have to see the nominees and ask questions of them. So, he directed a handful of questions at each person while also referring to the nominees' public questionnaires that have been submitted and can be viewed at the Senate Judiciary Committee's Web site.

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.

Sessions pressed the topic, saying it's an important issue about judicial activism and the committee should hear her views. "I am fully cognizant that the death penalty is the law of land, and I'm fully under oath to uphold it," she said in response. "I have never expressed such a view on the death penalty, and will continue to refrain from expressing views as it's an issue that may appear before me." Sessions questioned Judge Pratt about a case where she allowed a burglary convict to be transferred from state prison to a low-security facility over the prosecutor's objections, as allowed by state statute. The convict escaped and was convicted for his involvement in a murder.  

"That was a huge learning experience for me as a state court judge, and an example of the difficult decisions we have to make as judges," she said. "I do regret that, though you couldn't predict that would happen. This was a heartbreaking, horrible experience and it goes to show the huge impact our decisions have on the community." No timeline has been set for when the committee will vote on the judicial nominations.

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  1. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  2. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  3. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  4. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  5. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

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