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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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