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. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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