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Judge questioned again for nomination

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2009
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 U.S. District Chief Judge David F. Hamilton of Indianapolis appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon for a rare second hearing on his nomination for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lawmakers convened the second nomination hearing following complaints from Republican senators in early April about a lack of preparation time for the first hearing, which happened April 1. That hearing was just days before the Senate's two-week break before Easter, and Hamilton answered questions before senators about his 14 years of experience on the federal bench. But some Republicans didn't attend and effectively boycotted the hearing, not necessarily because of any opposition to Judge Hamilton's nomination but to the "unreasonable pace" at which the panel was vetting the nominee.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Hamilton for the post on March 17, and the first hearing was set about a week later. If he gets approval from committee members, the judge would still need confirmation by the full Senate. If confirmed, he would replace Judge Kenneth Ripple who took senior status in September 2008.

Judge Hamilton joined two other nominees at this latest hearing: Thomas E. Perez for assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and U.S. Judge Andre Davis in the District of Maryland for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia.

"This is his second appearance.... He enjoyed himself so much last time, he decided he would come back," said Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Maryland, who chaired the meeting in place of Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont. "I regret that you have to come back."

But because no Republicans attended the first hearing or submitted written questions, this second hearing was necessary, Cardin said.

The judge responded to five questions from senators, ranging from his thoughts on the differences between the two federal judiciary levels, views on courts' reliance on or guidance from foreign law and rulings, and how he'd stand up for what may be unpopular. Only one Republican senator asked him questions in person, despite the party's insistence for the second hearing.

Judge Hamilton said courts might look to foreign scholars or judges for guidance, but that they are bound by U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the U.S. Constitution. That question came from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the party's ranking committee member. He also asked the judge about a remark he made during a 2003 speech at a memorial service for the late U.S. Judge S. Hugh Dillon, pertaining to a judge's job of writing footnotes to the Constitution.

Judge Hamilton said that's how his late colleague described the judiciary's work and it was a tribute to his memory.

"The concept of footnotes is not something new, but shows that what we're doing is to work out details about how those principals apply to new situations," he said.

Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., asked what differences the judicial nominees see between the District and Circuit levels. Judge Hamilton responded that he'd miss the trial work and seeing jurors and lawyers on a daily basis, but he'd welcome the chance to handle appellate work.

"I'd look forward to the possibility of engaging in legal issues that are left less to discretion of a particular District judge but apply more to the broader rule of law," the judge said.

Responding to a question from Cardin about work that might be dubbed "unpopular," Judge Hamilton pointed to work he'd done in private practice at Barnes & Thornburg about two decades ago, particularly when the U.S. was dealing with the first wave of the AIDS epidemic.

He led an appeal overturning a parental rights termination ruling by a state court that stripped away the rights of a father who'd tested HIV positive, and the judge also noted his work on the Ryan White case, when the child was told he couldn't attend school after contracting HIV through a blood transfusion. The judge also mentioned some of his rulings that might have been classified as unpopular, but he didn't elaborate on any.

"As a judge, I try not to go out of my way to be unpopular - that's not way we decide cases," he said. "Sometimes the right result is popular; sometimes it's unpopular. You just go with the right result."

After the hearing, the record remains open for a week for additional questions and comments, and the nominees are encouraged to answer promptly. Coburn said he'd be submitting a series of 20 written questions on behalf of Republican colleagues for each nominee to answer, but he didn't elaborate on those questions or why those couldn't have been submitted prior to this hearing for Judge Hamilton to consider.
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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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