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.