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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. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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