ILNews

Nominations would fill 3 U.S. District judicial posts.

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share


A federal magistrate, a trial court judge, and a banking attorney who's served as a federal and county prosecutor are in line to be the newest additions to Indiana's federal bench.

Sen. Evan Bayh announced Jan. 18 that U.S. Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, and Jon E. DeGuilio would be nominated for three openings in the state's two U.S. District Courts.

The Southern District seats are open after Judge Larry McKinney took senior status in July and following Judge David F. Hamilton's elevation in November to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the Northern District, the nominee would fill the void left by Judge Allen Sharp, who died in July after serving in senior status for about two years.

Traveling to Indianapolis, Bayh conducted a news conference at the building named after his father - the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse at 46 E. Ohio St. - inside the William E. Steckler ceremonial courtroom, introducing each of the three nominees.

While the announcement comes as a first in the number of Hoosier judicial nominations named at the same time, Judge Walton Pratt represents a historic milestone in that she'd be the first African-American to hold a seat on the Indiana federal bench.

"Today, we take a historic step in creating a more diverse federal judiciary in our state," Bayh said. "These highly qualified Hoosiers have impeccable records and rich backgrounds that will help move us closer to our goal of realizing equal justice under law."

* Judge Walton Pratt is currently the presiding judge in the Marion Superior Probate Division. She's been in that role since serving as presiding judge from 1997 to December 2008 of the criminal division, where she handled major felonies and presided over 20 to 35 jury trials a year. She was first elected in 1996 but had served as a master commissioner in Marion Superior Court since 1993. Before donning the robe, Judge Walton Pratt was a partner in the Indianapolis law firm of Walton & Pratt, focusing her practice on family law, bankruptcy, and probate law. She had also worked as a deputy public defender in Marion County. She earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law.

* Judge Magnus-Stinson started at the Marion Superior Court in 1995 as a replacement to Judge John Tranberg, taking over that court and through the years presiding over every type of felony case. She also served as associate presiding judge of the Marion Superior Court Executive Committee. She moved to the federal bench in January 2007 to replace the retiring Magistrate Judge V. Sue Shields. Prior to the state bench, she served as counsel and deputy chief of staff to then-Gov. Bayh from 1991 to 1995, and she practiced in civil litigation at LewisWagner for seven years before that. A native of Wisconsin, she earned her law degree from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis in 1983.

* DeGuilio is executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Northwest Indiana Bancorp, and is also executive vice president and general counsel for Munster-based Peoples Bank. He joined the bank in December 1999 as senior vice president and trust officer after leaving the public sector where he served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana from November 1993 to June 1999. DeGuilio is a former Lake County prosecutor and has worked as a public defender. He also was a partner with Barnes & Thornburg and practiced in the law office of James L. Wieser. He earned his law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1981.

Bayh said that each nominee has proven to be deserving of public trust, demonstrating the highest ethical standards and a firm commitment to applying the country's laws fairly and faithfully.

"They know their job is to interpret our laws, not write them," he said.

Last year, members of the newly formed Metropolitan Committee for Judicial Justice group urged the president to use the judicial vacancies as an opportunity to address a lack of diversity to the openings in South Bend and Indianapolis. Currently, U.S. Judge Theresa Springmann in South Bend and Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis are the only two women to serve on the state's federal bench. U.S. Judge Rudy Lozano - on the bench since 1984, he took senior status in July 2007 - was the first Latino ever appointed to the federal bench in Indiana and has been the only minority appointee.

As the White House is responsible for officially announcing any federal judicial nominees, Bayh's remarks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day prefaced what was expected to be confirmed by the White House once President Barack Obama officially nominated each person. Following that, each jurist faces Senate confirmation - a process that has no timeline but could be influenced by the timing of the congressional elections in November and significant ongoing legislative issues, such as health-care reform.

These judicial nominations mean that Indiana now has a total of five nominations pending before the U.S. Senate. Just before Christmas, the president nominated David Capp for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. That nomination hasn't moved since Dec. 23, but it's expected to soon start moving through the confirmation process. Bloomington law professor Dawn Johnsen was nominated a year ago by President Obama to lead the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice, but her nomination stalled. Though her selection essentially died at the end of last year, the Senate has revived her initial nomination and the Senate Judiciary expects to hold additional hearings within the coming months.

Now Indiana is only waiting on word from the White House about who will be selected as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. That post has been open since the former top prosecutor stepped down in September 2007; second-in-command Tim Morrison has been acting in that role until a new person is confirmed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

ADVERTISEMENT