Judge’s pending retirement leaked in clerk applicant’s letter

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News of Indianapolis-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John Tinder’s retirement about a year from now came in a way he didn’t expect. And while he won’t be hearing cases in real life afterward, he may be available to play a judge on TV if the opportunity arises.

Tinder’s retirement plans became known after a clerk applicant received a reply letter from Tinder that read in part, “I recently decided that I will be leaving the court in 2015 so I will not be hiring any additional clerks.” A few days later, the letter was leaked and published on the legal blog Above the Law.

“I certainly didn’t expect to see personal communication posted on a website, but I guess that’s the way of the world,” Tinder said Tuesday. “If I give information to someone and I don’t restrict it, that’s my own fault.

“It’s not like it was a secret either, though. Anybody could look at the calendar and figure out” that he would turn 65 in February 2015, at which point he will be eligible to assume senior judge status. But Tinder said he doesn’t intend to hear cases after more than 25 years on the federal bench.

Though Tinder hadn’t publicly announced his retirement from the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, he said he notified court administration last month that he intends to retire from the court next February. He said he also had shared the news with colleagues.

“I walked into the building here at 46 E. Ohio (in Indianapolis) in May 1984, and I’ve been working in this very same building ever since,” Tinder said. “I’ve had dream jobs for lawyers – now, and on the District Court, and as U.S. Attorney. They’re all things I enjoyed every day and I continue to enjoy.

“There’s benefit in trying something different,” he said. “I don’t want to put any particular limits on what I might try.”

Tinder said he has some “hazy notions” about what some of those things might be – public interest advocacy, maybe arbitration – along with some time for extended travel. “I have some bad habits like golf I might unleash a little,” he said.

“I’ve not really had the opportunity to exercise my First Amendment rights since about 1987 or so,” Tinder said.

Tinder is clearer, though, on what he won’t be doing – starting a law firm or appearing in a courtroom. “I’m not retiring from the legal profession, but I will be leaving the court, and I hope to remain active in some way in the legal community and the community at large,” he said. “I’m not just going to sit home and watch sitcoms.”

But Tinder says he does allow binge-watching of “House of Cards” and other popular dramas, and figures he as well as anyone might put his experience to work in a more artistic endeavor.

“My great hope is that I get a phone call from the people who are producing the prequel to ‘Breaking Bad,’” Tinder mused. “It would be fun to be a judge in a courtroom where Saul Goodman appears,” he said of the crooked lawyer portrayed in the just-concluded AMC network series.

And why not?

“I never would have thought I would have had a chance to do the things in the legal field I’ve been able to do,” Tinder said. “It’s just amazing to me, and it’s been a fun ride. Who know what lies ahead?”

After his appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana in 1984, Tinder was nominated as a District Court judge in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. In 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Tinder to the 7th Circuit, who was confirmed without an opposing vote in the U.S. Senate. Tinder graduated from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington in 1975.


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