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Judge Pratt makes history in move to federal bench

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With approval from the U.S. Senate, Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is ready to make a historic move to the state’s federal court system.

Senators voted unanimously today to confirm Judge Pratt to the Southern District of Indiana, meaning she’ll be the state’s first African-American federal judge and one of four female jurists on Indiana's federal bench.

This completes a nomination process that began in January with an announcement from Indiana’s Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and nomination by President Barack Obama, followed by unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

Senators started discussion about 11:35 a.m. on the nominations of Judge Pratt and two other judicial nominees, but they didn’t discuss or debate any of the nominees specifically and no one raised any concerns before the voting process started about 11:50 a.m. An official vote came at 12:13 p.m.

“This (process) has been a test of patience, but I'm so very happy and honored,” Judge Pratt said moments after the vote, which she watched online from her office in the City-County Building. “I do respect the historic significance of being the first African-American in the state to join the federal bench, and that's really a credit to Sen. Bayh for looking outside the traditional group of candidates to be inclusive.”

She succeeds Judge David F. Hamilton, who moved up to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals late last year. Judge Pratt starts her new position once the president signs her commission in the coming days, and she expects the transition to officially take effect by June 25. She expects logistical details and interviews with federal courtroom staff to happen soon.

The move means she’ll resign from Marion Superior Court, where she has presided over the Probate Division since December 2008. Before taking on that role, she served as a criminal division judge since 1997, handling major felonies and presiding over 20 to 35 jury trials a year. Judge Pratt was first elected in 1996, but had served as a master commissioner in Marion Superior Court since 1993 after practicing privately.

Once she transitions to the federal bench, Judge Pratt will join Judges Sarah Evans Barker and Jane Magnus-Stinson in the Southern District of Indiana and Judge Theresa Springmann in the Northern District of Indiana as the state’s only federal female jurists.

Her confirmation comes a day after the Southern District of Indiana administered the oath to Judge Magnus-Stinson, who was nominated at the same time in January and the Senate confirmed unanimously on June 7. She had served as a magistrate since early 2007, moving from the Marion Superior bench.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is responsible for choosing a successor for Judge Pratt on Marion Superior Court, and that process officially starts once the governor’s office receives her resignation letter, said general counsel David Pippen. He expects a 30-day application process for those interested in the judicial spot, and then interviews will be conducted. Pippen said an exact timeline for the entire process isn’t clear and depends on the number of applicants and overall scheduling, which also overlaps with the search for a new Indiana Supreme Court justice once interviews begin in early July.

Whoever is chosen will be of the same political party, Democrat, as Judge Pratt, and that person will fulfill the remainder of her term that runs through 2014.
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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