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Lugar: I paid the price for support of Obama picks

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Former Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar told members of the federal judiciary May 6 that his support of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court appointees, opposed by many in his party, may have carried the greatest political cost of any decisions during his 36 years in the Senate.

Lugar said his support of justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were most frequently mentioned by the roughly 250,000 voters his campaign staff personally talked with in phone conversations during the 2012 Republican primary campaign. Lugar was unseated by Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock, who lost the general election to Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Lugar said voters were not persuaded by the argument that obstructing nominees on a political basis would raise obstacles for the nominees of future Republican presidents. Voters said they understood such a view, but it was “trumped by their desire to oppose the president,” Lugar told the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference in Indianapolis.

Senators of opposing parties now vote against confirmation of federal judges from half to four-fifths of the time, Lugar said. “It’s no longer good politics” to approach confirmation votes from a non-political point of view, he said. Bucking party lines on confirmation votes “carries extreme political risks, and almost no political benefit” for senators, he said, noting he found Sotomayor and Kagan to have strong qualifications, high moral character, and the respect of the legal community.

“Outside political forces on both sides” have “monetized” opposition in an effort to appeal to political bases, he said. Cable news and partisan websites, for instance, allow activists to spread “a strident viewpoint to vast numbers.” Lugar suggested that view over time could have a corrosive effect on the political independence of the federal judiciary.

Lugar contrasted the heated battles over Supreme Court nominations to his early days in the Senate, when confirmations typically sailed through, sometimes without hearings or with nominal questioning from the Judiciary Committee. He said there are signs, though, that a foundation still exists to rebuild a nonpartisan confirmation process.

Speaking at the 7th Circuit Conference’s annual luncheon, Lugar used the occasion to also promote the post-legislative work he’s hoping to carry out through the Lugar Center in Washington, D.C., and his work with the University of Indianapolis, Indiana University and Georgetown University.

The Lugar Center, founded last month, aims to promote hallmarks of his legacy as a lawmaker: nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global food security and ensuring the effectiveness of international aid. Lugar, 81, was recently knighted as a Knight Commander of the British Empire for his work reducing weapons of mass destruction.

At the outset of his speech, Lugar paid tribute to former Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen, who died May 4 at age 95, and who Lugar called “a very good friend.”

“He meant so much to all of us in public life, and in private life,” Lugar said.•

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  • The Right Thing
    You are a Man, an Attorney and a former Senator. You also have a heart an voted for what you knew was the right then to do and not for political reasons. God has and is continue to reward your for your good deeds. Thanks for doing the right thing and following your heart and not politics. Governer Pence is proving to do what is right and not political. Pray for more humans like you too.

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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