The American Bar Association has given its highest ranking to U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder in his nomination for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The federal judge in Indianapolis received word from the White House in July that President George W. Bush nominated him for the job. If confirmed, Judge Tinder would be the first Hoosier jurist appointed to the federal appellate court in 20 years.
Judge Tinder faced an evaluation process from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which happens before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing takes place. The 15-member group evaluates all nominees for the nation's federal courts.
The ABA has conducted such reviews for more than 50 years. Its ratings are designed to help brief lawmakers and the public by offering what the group says is an unbiased look at a nominee's "integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament."
However, in 2001 President Bush ended the ABA's preferential role in vetting prospective nominees and refused to give the group advance word on names under consideration. The Senate Judiciary Committee maintained the ABA's role in its own process, however, and a confirmation hearing generally won't take place until after the rating is complete.
In a letter dated Sept. 5, committee chair C. Timothy Hopkins with Hansen & Hoopes in Idaho wrote to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., about Judge Tinder's evaluation.
The ABA committee defines the highest "well qualified" rating as one where the nominee is at the top of the legal profession in his or her legal community, has outstanding legal ability, breadth of experience, and the highest reputation for integrity, as well as demonstrates the capacity for sound judicial temperament.
Short of that ranking, nominees can receive "qualified" or "not qualified" rankings. The 15-member committee unanimously decided Judge Tinder's qualification level, according to the letter.
A lifelong Indianapolis resident and a graduate of Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington, Judge Tinder was appointed District Court judge for the Southern District of Indiana in September 1987 at the age of 37. He'd previously served as a U.S. Attorney, chief trial deputy for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, and a public defender in Marion County. He had also practiced privately for seven years.