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UPDATE: Hamilton vote set for Thursday

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2009
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The full U.S. Senate will hold a roll call vote at 2:30 p.m. Thursday on an Indianapolis judge's controversial nomination, deciding whether U.S. Judge David F. Hamilton will move up to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Eight months after President Barack Obama chose him, and five months after getting through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a partisan vote, Judge Hamilton will learn whether he'll be elevated to the appellate bench from the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, where he currently serves as chief judge and has been a judge for 15 years.

About 70 percent of the Senate voted Tuesday afternoon to crush a judicial filibuster threat from some conservative Republican senators, meaning a final vote could proceed on President Barack Obama's first judicial pick. The 5 p.m. vote was 70-29, with 10 Republicans and two Independents crossing the partisan aisle to cut off debate. A procedural 30 hours of debate time followed, but on Wednesday less than an hour was devoted to discussing the judge's nomination overall as the day and evening's business went on.

Earlier in the week, both of Indiana's senators - Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh - spoke in favor of Judge Hamilton and highlighted their thoughts that he's well qualified for the appellate bench.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. and a Senate Judiciary Committee member, was the most dramatic in his opposition, at times pointing his finger in the air and shouting "activist" or "ignored" in referencing what he thought of the judge's rulings and his adherence to precedent. The senator repeatedly accused Judge Hamilton of breaching his judicial oath and disrespecting the rule of law by using his own personal bias and prejudices to "do what he wants" instead of following the U.S. Constitution.

"He embraces a liberal activist philosophy, and has implemented that philosophy in his decisions," Coburn said. "That's the problem with activist judges. They see no limits; they take a personal bias and use that bias to make their own decisions rather than looking at the Constitution."

Sen. Jeffrey Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking party member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed the cloture motion and voiced concerns about Judge Hamilton's record and work history, saying it's important to continue debate on Judge Hamilton because he was the president's first pick and will set the stage for how both parties can proceed on future judicial nominations.

Speaking Wednesday evening from the Senate floor, Sessions reiterated those points and added that no debate had been offered by Democrats on Judge Hamilton's nomination and that his colleagues hadn't been given enough time to debate the judge's merits. Sessions said he expects that more than the 29 cloture-opposing senators would vote against Judge Hamilton once the final vote takes place.

The Senate returns Thursday morning, and at 2 p.m. will have only 30 minutes of debate on Judge Hamilton's nomination before proceeding to the final vote.
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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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