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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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  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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