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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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