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Senators treat judge kindly at second hearing

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Even though Republicans insisted on a rare second judicial nomination hearing for U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton, it remained unclear Wednesday what need there was for the Indianapolis judge to appear again before the Senate Judiciary Committee in his bid for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

He attended his second nomination hearing in the afternoon, a proceeding that was scheduled after Republican senators had complained in early April that they needed more time to review Judge Hamilton's extensive record on the bench and that he should appear a second time. This hearing was scheduled following a two-week spring break and follows the first hearing April 1, which Republicans effectively boycotted.

Only one Republican lawmaker attended the hearing this week, and that senator lobbed two relatively mild questions to the judge, illustrating that partisan politics may have been more at the heart of the delay than anything else.

Lawmakers were apologetic to the judge for the month's delay in the process but kept a sense of humor about it during the hearing.

"This is his second appearance .... He enjoyed himself so much last time, he decided he would come back," said Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., who chaired the meeting in place of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "I regret that you have to come back."

Because no Republicans attended the first hearing or submitted written questions, this second hearing was necessary, Cardin said. But Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, the ranking minority member, was the only Republican to attend to ask questions. The two senators who'd previously requested more time - Arlen Specter who was a Republican but recently switched to the Democratic Party, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. - did not attend.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Hamilton for the post March 17, and the first hearing was set about a week later. If he gets approval from committee members, the judge would still need confirmation by the full Senate. If confirmed, he would replace Judge Kenneth Ripple who took senior status in September 2008.

Overall, Judge Hamilton answered five questions from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers at the second hearing. Some were directed at all the nominees.

Coburn asked the judge about his view on using international law or foreign court rulings as guidance, as well as a 2003 comment the judge made about judges writing footnotes to the Constitution.

Judge Hamilton said courts might look to foreign scholars or judges for guidance but that they are bound by U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the U.S. Constitution. The judge noted that his footnotes remark came during a 2003 speech for the late U.S. Judge S. Hugh Dillon, pertaining to a judge's job of writing footnotes to the Constitution. Judge Hamilton said that's how his late colleague described the judiciary's work and it was a tribute to his memory.

"The concept of footnotes is not something new but shows that what we're doing is to work out details about how those principals apply to new situations," he said.

Coburn thanked Hamilton for attending and added that his uncle, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, was one of his heroes.

Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., asked what differences the judicial nominees see between the District and Circuit levels. Judge Hamilton said he'd miss the trial work and seeing jurors and lawyers on a daily basis, but he'd welcome the chance to handle appellate work.

"I'd look forward to the possibility of engaging in legal issues that are left less to discretion of a particular District judge but apply more to the broader rule of law," the judge said.

Responding to a question from Cardin about work that he dubbed "unpopular," Judge Hamilton pointed to work he'd done in private practice at Barnes & Thornburg about two decades ago, particularly when the U.S. was dealing with the first wave of the AIDS epidemic. He'd led an appeal overturning a parental-rights termination ruling by a state court that stripped away the rights of a father who'd tested HIV positive, and the judge also noted his work on the case of Ryan White, who was told he couldn't attend school after contracting HIV through a blood transfusion. The judge also mentioned some of his rulings that might have been classified as unpopular, but he didn't elaborate on any.

"As a judge, I try not to go out of my way to be unpopular; that's not way we decide cases," he said. "Sometimes the right result is popular; sometimes it's unpopular. You just go with the right result."

Judge Hamilton joined two other nominees at this latest hearing: Thomas E. Perez for assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and U.S. Judge Andre Davis in the District of Maryland for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia.

After the hearing, the record remains open for a week for additional questions and comments, and the nominees are encouraged to answer promptly. Coburn said he'd submit 20 questions written on behalf of Republican colleagues for each nominee to answer, but he didn't elaborate on those questions or why those couldn't have been submitted prior to this hearing for Judge Hamilton to consider.

No date has been set for the committee to vote on Judge Hamilton's nomination.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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