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Court excited about magistrate's elevation

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Within a week, the state's third federal female judge could be ready to handle her constitutionally created duties in the Southern District of Indiana.

The full Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed by voice vote U.S. Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, making her a federal judge and elevating her from the spot she's held since early 2007. She succeeds semi-retired Judge Larry McKinney.

Introducing the three nominees and speaking generally about them, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., praised the trio but pointed out how Senate Republicans have delayed judicial nominations that end up being uncontroversial and approved unanimously.

"This is more than just an annoyance for those who've been nominated," Leahy said, noting the practicality of courts and individual nominees being hindered by the delays. "In meantime, their lives have been disrupted and the judiciary itself is put into disarray. There's no explanation, no excuse, no reason for these months of delay."

With this confirmation vote complete, this culminates a process that began for Magistrate Judge Magnus-Stinson in January, when President Barack Obama nominated her for the federal bench along with Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt for a second Southern District opening, and attorney Jon DeGuilio for the Northern District of Indiana. No timeline is set for Judge Pratt's pending nomination; Senators confirmed DeGuilio last month.

Judge Magnus-Stinson declined to speak about the vote or her confirmation process before her commission is officially signed and received from President Obama. But Chief Judge Richard Young said that could happen in the coming days and she'll likely be ready for a full judicial docket next week.

Now that a confirmation vote is complete, a merit-selection panel is being chosen to select a new magistrate, he said. That panel will likely consist of 15 to 17 members, with at least two non-attorneys and at least seven lawyers. Applications are now being accepted and an ad will soon go out about the opening, the chief judge said. He hopes that selection process will happen quickly so that a new magistrate can be put in place in the coming months.

While he took the chief judge position in November 2009 and that has a term of seven years, Judge Magnus-Stinson is next on the roster of jurists to take that administrative position. She succeeded former Magistrate Judge V. Sue Shields in January 2007, after 12 years on the Marion Superior bench. Prior to the state bench, she worked in the early 1990s as chief legal counsel for then-Gov. Evan Bayh, who ultimately recommended her to the president.

"She's one of the most qualified we've had in some time, and has touched all the judicial bases," Chief Judge Young said.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker, who was the state's first woman judge on the federal bench, welcomed her colleague to the Article III family.

“She's a wonderful colleague already and she'll move smoothly into the District Court duties," Judge Barker said. "This will be a broader level of responsibility, but she'll do fine."

This nomination is historic, in that Judge Magnus-Stinson becomes only the third woman to ever be named to the federal bench in Indiana. She joins Judge Barker and Judge Teresa Springmann in the Northern District of Indiana.

Reflecting on that gender diversity, Judge Barker said she feels like former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor did when welcoming Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court.

"This is important. It's entirely welcome and has been a long time coming," Judge Barker said.
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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