Within a year, the federal court system that covers the southern half of Indiana could have two new full-time magistrates, one being a newly created position that would be the first creation of its kind in almost three decades.
At a meeting June 11, the 13-member Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System unanimously agreed that the Southern District of Indiana should be one of six nationally to receive a new full-time magistrate position. Chief Judge Richard Young in Indianapolis sits on the committee that makes recommendations to the Judicial Conference of the United States, which will consider those recommendations and make a final decision when it meets in September.
This is the first request of its kind for the Southern District since the early 1980s, according to Chief Judge Young. It would be a significant change for the court jurisdiction that is one of the nation’s busiest.
“I feel that it’s justified because we have for a long time been one of the busiest District courts in the nation,” he said about the new position, noting that the Judicial Conference has previously approved an additional Article III judgeship here but Congress hasn’t yet authorized that. “With the budget and economy like it is, I don’t see Congress passing a judgeship bill in the near future. So, in order to acquire judicial help in our District, we decided to request an additional magistrate judge.”
Congress had previously authorized the Judicial Conference to create six new positions, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Aside from this requested position, Chief Judge Young said the committee’s other recommendations also include the Central District of California, the District of Nevada, and the District of Minnesota. The committee chair, Chief Judge George King in the Central District of California in Los Angeles, could not be reached to confirm all six of the positions by IL deadline for this story.
But Chief Judge Young said that if the position is approved later this year, the new magistrate would be based in Indianapolis where space is available. That was one item the committee considered because the District wouldn’t have to find or rent space for a new magistrate and add to the budget. Any new magistrate would join the current full-time Magistrate Judges Tim Baker, Debra McVicker Lynch, and William Hussman; as well as part-time Magistrates Craig McKee and Mike Naville who handle search warrant and criminal matters; and recalled Magistrate Kennard Foster.
That person would add to the change already taking place at the Southern District following the recent confirmation of Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson for an Article III judgeship. The Senate confirmed her nomination June 7 and she was sworn in June 14, creating a magistrate position opening for the first time since January 2007 when she took that post.
Finding someone to fill the potential new magistrate spot would happen the same way as is now occurring with the position vacated by Judge Magnus-Stinson: a merit-selection panel made up of 15 to 17 attorney and non-attorney members has been formed to review applications, handle interviews, and select candidates to recommend for the position, Chief Judge Young said. The process is confidential to protect applicants’ privacy, and the five most qualified candidates will be forwarded to the District judges for consideration and final approval.
Applicants – who should generally have practiced for at least five years and be 70 years old or younger – have until July 14 to apply. The position pays an annual salary of $160,080 and runs for an eight-year term before that person is eligible for reappointment.
A magistrate judge gets initial assignments and handles pre-trial work and mediation and settlement conferences. Magistrates also have limited jurisdiction in criminal cases to hear only misdemeanors. Parties can consent to allow magistrates to hear full cases and take them to trial. •