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U.S. Senate debating Indiana judge's nomination

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Indiana is at the heart of a legislative discussion about the future of the federal judiciary, and debate about a judge's controversial nomination is coming to a head this week.

The full U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a debate-limiting measure called cloture, which if passed would push forward the nomination of U.S. Judge David F. Hamilton, chief judge of the Southern District of Indiana who is being considered for elevation to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. President Barack Obama nominated the judge in March as his first judicial pick for the federal judiciary.

If confirmed, Judge Hamilton, who's been on the District bench since 1994, would replace Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple who took senior status in September 2008.

After five months of delays from the Senate's Republican minority in moving the nomination forward, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week filed a motion to invoke cloture and bring Judge Hamilton's nomination to an up-or-down vote. He needs 60 votes to achieve that, and if passed the Senate would be limited up to 30 hours of debate before a final confirmation vote. Senate aides expect the cloture to pass and for a vote to happen Wednesday because Judge Hamilton has some bipartisan support - Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., defended the Hoosier jurist in a floor speech Monday afternoon.

Sen. Jeffrey Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed the cloture motion and voiced concerns about Judge Hamilton's record and work history, citing past rulings as well as his month of fundraising work for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) after graduating from college in 1979 and a year of sitting on the governing board of what is now the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in the mid-80s when he practiced at Barnes & Thornburg. Sessions said 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.

A cloture vote is expected later today once senators complete action on a military construction and veterans' aide bill. That vote hadn't happened by 2:15 p.m., but an hour of debate is expected prior to the cloture vote ­- with debate equally divided between Sessions and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Pat Leahy, D-Vt.

Check for updates at Indiana Lawyer 's Web site, www.theindianalawyer.com, as well as expanded coverage in the Nov. 25-Dec.8, 2009, print edition of Indiana Lawyer.

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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