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Indy magistrate gets Senate panel's approval

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An Indianapolis federal magistrate joins two of her colleagues in getting a U.S. Senate committee's approval to become an Article III judge for Indiana.

Earlier today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson for a judicial opening in the Southern District of Indiana. Committee members voted today after postponing discussion and vote on March 4, when members unanimously approved two other Hoosier nominees: Jon DeGuilio for the Northern District of Indiana and Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt for the Southern District of Indiana.

Ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wanted to personally follow up with Magistrate Judge Magnus-Stinson before voting because he'd received a response from her the night before about questions following her Feb. 11 nomination hearing. His press office declined to elaborate on details of the meeting March 8, but the magistrate's online response showed the senator had concerns about her handling of capital cases, the death penalty, and recusal issues she's faced in the past.

If confirmed, Magistrate Judge Magnus-Stinson, who's been on at the federal court since 2007, would succeed U.S. Judge Larry McKinney, who took senior status in July 2009; Judge Pratt would succeed Judge David F. Hamilton, who was elevated last year to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals; and DeGuilio would fill a vacancy left by Judge Allen Sharp, who died in July 2009 after almost two years of senior status.

With this approval, the three nominees - chosen by President Barack Obama in mid-January - now must get approval from the full U.S. Senate, though no timetable exists for when that might happen. It's up to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to determine when they are brought up for discussion and a vote. The same process is in place for the nomination of Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor Dawn Johnsen, who received a party-line vote March 4 from the Senate committee. She was first nominated early last year and went through the confirmation process, but didn't get a vote in the full Senate and was ultimately re-nominated this year.

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