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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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