Indiana's legal community got a mixed bag of gifts on Christmas Eve, as one former Hoosier attorney received Senate confirmation for an ambassadorship, a federal prosecutor in Hammond learned he might be promoted, and a Bloomington law professor got what amounts to a lump of coal as senators sent her nearly yearold nomination back to the president for reconsideration.
The flurry of activity started late Dec. 23 and carried over into Christmas Eve, with Sen. Evan Bayh announcing that David Capp would be the pick for the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Indiana. The veteran prosecutor has been with the office for 24 years, filling in three times as interim chief and most recently since July 2007 after his predecessor Joseph Van Bokkelen took the federal bench.
Capp has worked for the U.S Attorney's Office since 1985, serving as second-incommand as a deputy or interim chief since 1991. Since taking the temporary post two years ago, Capp has continued his predecessor's push to prosecute corrupt politicians and said corruption prosecutions will remain a priority as long as he heads the office. He also said drug pros- ecutions should make the region safer for families.
Prior to federal service, Capp was a partner at Cohen & Thiros in Merrillville. He is a graduate of Valparaiso University School of Law.
Capp now faces Senate confirmation, a process that will likely begin early this year. He declined to comment until that process is finished, but he said he was "truly honored" by the nomination. The White House officially announced Capp's nomination Dec. 24, just hours after the U.S. Senate made its historic vote on health care reform and followed up with action on numerous pending nominations.
One of those approved nominees was former Hoosier attorney Anne Slaughter Andrew, whom the president had chosen in October to be ambassador to Costa Rica. She is the principal of Washington, D.C.-based New Energy Nexus LLC and advises companies and entrepreneurs about ways to capitalize on this new energy economy. An attorney who earned her degree from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis, Andrew has also advised companies in corporate environmental and energy practices and served as of counsel at Bingham McHale, cochair of the Environment/Energy Team at Baker & Daniels, and was a partner at the Washington, D.C., law office of Patton & Boggs.
But while approving Andrew and many others for positions, the Senate declined to act on six pending nominations. One of those was Dawn Elizabeth Johnsen, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington, who'd been nominated in January 2009 to run the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel.
Opposition has stacked up against her in the past year, specifically about her criticism of the Bush administration's justice officials and their political considerations. As a result, her nomination sat mostly in limbo for 10 months and senators refused to cast a final vote on her. Senate rules say that nominations must be wrapped up by year's end of the legislative session, and if not confirmed then carried over by a unanimous consent agreement or sent back to the president.
The White House must now decide whether to renominate Johnsen and those other nominees, or find new nominees for the vacant posts. If the president wants Johnsen to serve in his administration, he'll have to renominate her and start the confirmation process largely from scratch.
The White House didn't respond to an email from Indiana Lawyer seeking comment on Johnsen's nomination, and a spokesman in Sen. Bayh's office in Washington, D.C., couldn't be reached for comment.
While news of the nomination happenings came in late December, those involved in the process said there wasn't any indication when other nominations might be announced.
The U.S. Attorney post in the Southern District of Indiana remains open following Susan Brooks' departure in 2007, and Tim Morrison has been acting in that role until a permanent nomination is announced and approved. The state also has three judicial seats vacant - one in the Northern District of Indiana where Judge Allen Sharp died in July 2009 after nearly two years of senior status; and the seats of Judge Larry McKinney who took senior status in July 2009, and Judge David F. Hamilton, recently confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.