Behind the hearing

February 12, 2010
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The major snowstorm that pummeled Washington, D.C., this week isn’t the only thing creating a chill in the air. Comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., toward the American Bar Association’s process for evaluating federal judicial nominees could be described as frosty.

At the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on six nominees for the federal bench – including three from Indiana – Reid said the ABA shouldn’t penalize a nominee for not having prior experience on the bench. He said the comments with the nominee from his own state in mind, Gloria Navarro, but the comments also apply to Indiana nominee Jon DeGuilio, who has never served on the bench.

“I think the ABA should get a new life and look at whether people are qualified, not whether they have judicial experience,” Reid said.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Navarro as qualified, but a minority of the committee rated her as not qualified. Reid said that was out of concern because she had never been a judge. He went on to say the judiciary is “out of touch” and criticized the judges’ robes and “fancy chambers.”

The ABA committee rated DeGuilio as qualified; the substantial majority found Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton to be well qualified with a minority finding her to be qualified. The ABA committee rated U.S. Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson qualified as well.

The ABA started evaluating federal judicial nominees in 1948, and began evaluating them for presidents starting with President Dwight. D. Eisenhower in 1953. While it may evaluate the judges, the committee doesn’t recommend or endorse any particular candidate.

Indiana’s Democratic Senator Evan Bayh spoke later in the hearing, giving a statement that included encouraging senators to adopt the “Hoosier approach” of working across party lines to select consensus nominees. After his statement, Bayh took a moment to say the judicial confirmation process is “too often consumed by ideological differences and partisan acrimony, and that it's not how the Framers wanted us to exercise our authority.”

I would say Bayh’s comment should extend past the judiciary and on to nominees for other posts, say the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice.
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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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