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Federal judicial nomination hearing draws crowd

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The Senate Judiciary Committee considered U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton's nomination for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals at a Wednesday afternoon hearing. A second hearing might be possible, and committee members likely won't vote on the Indianapolis judge's appointment to the appellate bench for at least another month.

The hearing for the Southern District of Indiana jurist was conducted about 2:30 p.m. at the U.S. Capitol building. It was moved from the usual building a couple blocks away because senators wanted to be closer to the Senate floor in order to vote on a series of federal budget bill items being debated at the same time, according to Erica Chabot, press secretary for committee chair Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt.

Normally, the hearing would have been broadcast live online, but the relocation meant going to a room without cameras.

The room, which was smaller than the usual location and had limited seating, was packed with people standing wall-to-wall, said Charles Bruess, the judge's recently retired courtroom deputy of almost a decade who traveled to Washington, D.C., for the hearing

"It was interesting to be there and see how the process works, but I didn't come away with a good feeling because it was all very confusing," he said. "The disappointing thing to me is that this last minute effort to postpone it doesn't take into consideration regular people who traveled a long way to be there or had planned to watch this online."

The hearing began on time and Leahy made his introductions, and then immediately the leading committee members were able to speak in order of seniority, Bruess said. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said lawmakers weren't given enough time to prepare for the hearing - echoing a concern he's voiced since the hearing was first scheduled a week ago. Specter praised Judge Hamilton's academic and judicial records and said he doesn't necessarily disagree with any of the judge's decisions, but he said more time was needed to review the record, which includes 1,150 written opinions - and 9,500 pages - from the judge's tenure on the bench.

Specter, who left the hearing after his 10-minute statement, urged Judge Hamilton to consider volunteering for a second hearing. Such a hearing would be rare, and it hasn't been determined if one might happen, according to Chabot. Leahy and the administration have said they're moving quickly in order to foster a bipartisan spirit and set a tone different from the past, when judicial nominations were delayed and took much longer.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Hamilton for the post March 17, and this hearing was set about a week later. This is one step in the overall confirmation process, and the judge would still need confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. If confirmed, he would replace Judge Kenneth Ripple who took senior status in September 2008.

Judge Hamilton began his opening remarks about 3:10 p.m. after an introduction from Indiana's senators, Republican Dick Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh, the latter being the legislator who'd recommended the judge for the seat.

The full hearing lasted until about 4:15 p.m. and included consideration of two other nominees, one assistant attorney general nominee and a drug control policy director prospect. Senators asked all three questions simultaneously, making it difficult to distinguish exactly how long each testified for.

Those at the hearing said that in his first 15 minutes, Judge Hamilton answered questions about specific cases he's handled during his 14 years on the bench and talked about how he would recuse himself from cases, if necessary.

Judge Hamilton spoke about at least three cases, including his Henrichs v. Bosma decision in 2005 involving legislative prayer, his Doe v. Prosecutors case in 2008 involving search and seizures of sex offender computers and residences, and his past string of decisions involving Indiana's informed-consent for abortion laws.

A transcript of the hearing will be published once it's completed, Chabot said.

The most current coverage of the nomination process can be found at the Indiana Lawyer Web site, and an in-depth story on Judge Hamilton can be found in the April 1-14, 2009, issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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