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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  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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