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Senate Judiciary holds nomination hearing

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A busy Congressional calendar has caused the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to move its nomination hearing to a room without cameras, which leaves Indiana's legal community in the dark about an Indianapolis-based federal judge's nomination for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nomination hearing began about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday for U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton of the Southern District of Indiana, who's being considered for the Chicago-based appellate bench.

Normally, the hearing would have been broadcast live online, but the committee changed location just before the meeting to be closer to the Senate floor for a series of important budget votes expected during the nomination hearing, according to Erica Chabot, press secretary for committee chair Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. That meant moving to a room without any cameras, she said.

Judge Hamilton began his opening remarks following introductions about 3:10 p.m., according to Chabot, and he'd taken questions from three senators in the first 15 minutes of speaking to the committee, including how he would recuse himself from cases.

At the start of the hearing, Leahy pointed to Judge Hamilton's nomination earning support from across the political spectrum - including both of Indiana's senators, but also from within the state's own legal community.

"The President of the Indianapolis Lawyers Chapter of the conservative Federalist Society, Geoffrey Slaughter, who two months ago invited Judge Hamilton to speak before the conservative group, called him 'an excellent jurist with a first-rate intellect,' and described his judicial philosophy as 'well within the mainstream, between the 30-yard lines,'" Leahy's written statement says.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Hamilton for the post March 17. This hearing is one step in the overall confirmation process, and the judge would still need confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. If confirmed, he would replace Judge Kenneth Ripple who took senior status in September 2008.

The most current coverage of the nomination hearing can be found at the Indiana Lawyer Web site, and an in-depth story on Judge Hamilton can be found in the April 1-14, 2009, issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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