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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. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

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