When Indianapolis attorney Joe Hogsett received the news Wednesday that he’d been chosen by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, he wasn’t in court or handling a client’s legal matters.
The senior partner at Bingham McHale was walking out of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, where he’s on vacation for his 12-year-old son’s weeklong baseball tournament.
“Walking out of the home of baseball when you get a call about the president giving you such an honor… You can’t get any more American and patriotic than that,” the 53-year-old lawyer told Indiana Lawyer within an hour of the White House announcement about 7:15 p.m. “What a uniquely American experience, and I’m so extremely honored to be thought of for this.”
Limited in what he says publicly about the job prior to getting Senate approval, Hogsett said he’s looking forward to the confirmation process and will leave comments about why he applied for the post until that’s complete. He’s honored the president would tap him for such a critically important post, which hasn’t had a presidentially appointed leader in nearly three years.
The most recent confirmed leader was Susan Brooks, who left in October 2007 to take a general counsel spot at Ivy Tech Community College. Longtime second-in-command and previous interim leader Tim Morrison took over that role temporarily until a new nominee could be found.
For the Southern District, the U.S. Attorney manages a staff of about 80 people that includes roughly 30 lawyers. Morrison said the office in recent years typically handles an average 1,300 new civil cases and 1,300 pending ones, 350 new criminal cases and about the same number of pending ones, as well as about 2,000 active financial litigation cases that have collected about $20.1 million in the past three years.
Indiana’s Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh had recommended Hogsett, who’s been practicing since 1981 and had previously served as chief of staff and senior advisor to Bayh during his governorship. Hogsett has long been expected to be the choice for the post, given his experience in working with Bayh in the past, his time as the state Democratic Party chairman several years ago and his service as Secretary of State during Bayh’s time as governor.
Bayh praised the nominee’s experience, intellect, and temperament and highlighted Hogsett’s supervision of numerous fraud prosecutions during his time as Sectary of State.
Hogsett now handles individual employment contracts, non-compete agreements, sexual harassment and retaliation claims, and immigration compliance, and he defends businesses in employment discrimination and civil rights litigation at the state and federal levels. He also assists the firm’s government department in advising Hoosier cities, towns, and counties on various issues. Hogsett graduated from what is now the Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington.
Now, Hogsett faces a confirmation process that requires U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approval and confirmation by the full Senate. Spokesman Brian Weiss in Bayh’s office in Washington, D.C., said there isn’t a set timetable for when the Senate might take action on the nomination, but it could take longer with the pending confirmation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court. Some have generally speculated that the process might wrap up by year’s end, when Bayh leaves office after his decision to not return to the Senate.
If confirmed this year, Hogsett would be the state’s second new U.S. Attorney following the Senate’s approval in May for interim leader David Capp to take that position for the Northern District of Indiana, following the elevation of Joseph Van Bokkelen to the federal bench in mid-2007.