ILNews

Senate confirms Von Bokkelen for U.S. District judgeship

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A federal prosecutor in northern Indiana will be the newest member of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Hammond.

The full U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen's appointment Thursday, meaning he will succeed retiring Judge Rudy Lozano who is taking senior status.

President George W. Bush, who nominated the veteran trial lawyer, still needs to sign Van Bokkelen's appointment, which he could do after Judge Lozano steps down after July 10. Van Bokkelen would be sworn in after that.

The president nominated Von Bokkelen after being recommended in November by Sen. Richard Lugar, whose office sent a news release late Thursday afternoon congratulating Von Bokkelen and crediting his prosecutor experience for the confirmation.

"His performance as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana has been nothing short of remarkable and I am confident that he will approach his judgeship with the same enthusiasm and proficiency," the release said.

During the confirmation hearing before the 19-member committee in April, Von Bokkelen answered questions that ranged from background, how Von Bokkelen would fairly consider cases that could come before the court from prosecutors he once worked with, and his views on the ongoing U.S. attorney firing controversy in regard to the proper balance between prosecutorial independence and the presidential prerogative to appoint nominees.

He also noted three judges in particular whom he's looked up to during his career: 7th Circuit Judge Michael Kanne, who hailed from the Northern District of Indiana; deceased Northern District Judge Phil McNagy Jr., who was a former assistant U.S. attorney; and St. Joseph Judge George Beamer, who Von Bokkelen described as being a role model and mentor in his role as prosecutor.

Since his appointment as a federal prosecutor in 2001, Van Bokkelen has prosecuted hundreds of guns and drug cases and built a reputation for aggressively prosecuting public corruption. He led the highly publicized Operation Restore Public Integrity, a wide-ranging corruption probe that targeted some of northwest Indiana's most powerful political figures. His office has sent to prison more than 30 public officials, including former U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hall, former state Democratic Party Chair Peter Manous, and former Lake County auditor and assessor Peter Benjamin. The office also took on politicians in East Chicago, sending city officials and contractors to prison for a sidewalks-for-votes scheme designed to help re-elect Mayor Robert Pastrick.

Before becoming U.S. attorney, Van Bokkelen practiced law in Highland and concentrated his practice in litigation and criminal defense. He was also an assistant federal prosecutor and a special assistant to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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