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

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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.

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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