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Federal Circuit converges on Indianapolis

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has kept up with a trend of publishing more written opinions than any other federal court, and one of the most significant happenings in the past year is the recent resurrection of inviting lower trial judges to sit by designation on appeals panels.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook offered those two points to hundreds of his colleagues within the federal legal community who are gathered in Indianapolis for the annual meeting of the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference. The two-day event rotates locations each year and comes to Indiana once every four years.

The business portions are today and Tuesday at the Westin Hotel, with panel discussions focusing on legal writing, caselaw about non-scientific evidence, attorney-client privilege in government investigations, e-communication security and privacy, civil discovery, victims' rights, patent litigation, and a look at the Midwest economy.

During his annual State of the Circuit address at a luncheon this afternoon, Chief Judge Easterbrook highlighted his decision in January to start inviting District judges to sit by designation at the 7th Circuit - a policy that hasn't been used for about 15 years. He plans to start inviting more judges later this year.

Overall, caseloads in the Circuit remain steady and saw an 8 percent increase last year, the chief judge said. The 7th Circuit continues standing out in that it publishes written opinions in 51 percent of its decisions, compared to 19 percent nationally - 693 were published last year, he said.

This coming year could present challenges in that the entire Western District of Wisconsin will see a complete turnover of judges, and the Southern District of Indiana may have two vacancies to fill simultaneously - that of Judge David F. Hamilton who's been nominated for the 7th Circuit, and Judge Larry McKinney who takes senior status in July.

Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard spoke briefly about how state courts continue working with the federal system to improve the nation's courts from within, and also about his work on a panel analyzing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Justice John Paul Stevens, the Circuit's representative for the U.S. Supreme Court, is a keynote speaker at a dinner reception this evening. Rev. David Link, former dean of Notre Dame Law School for 24 years, is receiving the American Inns of Court's 2009 Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit, which is given to a senior judge or lawyer whose life and practice displays "sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession."

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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