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U.S. Senate confirms Hamilton for 7th Circuit

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U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton is the newest jurist on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

After a half hour of final debate starting at 2 p.m., the U.S. Senate voted within an hour to confirm Judge Hamilton, who was President Barack Obama's first judicial pick.

He has served the Southern District of Indiana bench for 15 years and currently serves as chief judge. He succeeds Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple, who took senior status in September 2008.

"We're so very happy for our colleague that this long process has finally ended," said Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis, "and of course, that it's culminated in his appointment. We have always had complete confidence in his abilities, and that's never waived. We'll miss his collegiality on our court here, but we'll look forward to working with him at the Court of Appeals level."

Today's final vote of 59-39 capped an eight-month nomination process that had been prevented from reaching the floor for debate since June when Judge Hamilton survived the Senate Judiciary Committee by a partisan vote. On Tuesday, 70 percent of the Senate crushed a judicial filibuster threat by some conservative senators, allowing the controversial nomination to finally proceed to an up-or-down vote.

Sen. Jeffrey Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed Judge Hamilton's nomination because of concerns about his record and work history, which they labeled as "liberal" and evidence of a "judicial activist." Sessions pushed debate because the judge was the president's first pick and sets the stage for how both parties can proceed on future judicial nominations.

But several senators - including Indiana's senators, Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh - defended Judge Hamilton and called those accusations unfounded, saying the judge is well qualified for the appellate bench.

Speaking on Judge Hamilton's behalf from the Senate floor earlier this week, Bayh called the nomination delays that had stopped the judge from getting a vote since summer a "sad state of our judicial nominating process."

"I know first hand (Judge Hamilton) is a highly capable lawyer who understands the limited role of the federal judiciary," he said.

A formal swearing in will likely occur in early 2010, and the judge will be able to begin his appellate duties immediately after the president signs his commission document. But as has happened in the past with other judges, the chief Circuit judge will likely re-designate him to the District Court in a limited capacity in order to tie up his caseload and assist until a successor is nominated and confirmed. Bayh's office has not publicly released any candidates' names and the White House does not have a timeline for when any judicial nomination might be announced.

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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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