Judge reflects on new position on 1-year anniversary of confirmation

November 24, 2010
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This post is by reporter Michael Hoskins.

A year ago, U.S. Judge David F. Hamilton got the green light from the Senate to move up to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals from the Southern District of Indiana. His confirmation came Nov. 19, 2009, and he began his appellate duties on Nov. 22.

The dates didn’t stand out on his calendar recently, but the judge gladly took some time to talk with Indiana Lawyer about his positive experiences in the new job so far.

“At this point, I feel like I’m settling into the job pretty well,” he said, noting that he hasn’t counted the arguments he’s heard or the opinions written so far. “I’m just focusing on the work that needs to be done. I do miss the trials and closer interaction with juries and lawyers and witnesses, but I do enjoy the challenges.”

Traveling to the Chicago-based appeals court a couple times a month, Judge Hamilton said he usually gets there for two-day sittings at a time but also for non-argument duties. He’s also enjoyed becoming a part of the law school campus in Bloomington, spending as much as three-quarters of his time there. Though he’s had some interaction with students – participating in one class session so far and planning on more this next spring semester – the judge said he mostly is able to attend the lectures and events at the law school because of his judicial duties.

Coincidentally, that lecture-attending ability also gave him the chance most recently – on the day marking his confirmation vote in 2009 – to attend an event focusing on his sister-in-law Dawn Johnsen, who is an Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor who’d been going through the Senate confirmation process for a top Department of Justice spot at the same time. But while the judge survived that process, Johnsen withdrew her name from consideration earlier this year because of partisan delays and debate.

On Friday, she gave a lecture at the law school that marked the first time she publicly talked about that whole process. Judge Hamilton attended the event to hear her speak, since he now has one of his offices located at the Bloomington law school where Johnsen teaches. The judge declined to comment on Johnsen's nomination process and said he’d prefer to keep his focus on his own judicial work. You can read a new Indiana Lawyer story on that in our latest edition that’s posted online about her experience.

Of course, those two going through the same confirmation process at the same time certainly makes you ponder what it’d be like to be a fly on the wall at the upcoming holiday gatherings, or even those from last year just after the judge’s confirmation while her’s was still pending. That may be details we’ll never know.


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