Donnelly hopeful Indiana’s federal court vacancies will be filled soon

December 30, 2015

With U.S. District Judge Robert Miller Jr. preparing to take senior status in January, Indiana will have three judicial vacancies to fill on the federal bench.

Across the country, openings in district and circuit courts are increasing and have become a growing concern in the legal community. Currently the federal judiciary has 70 vacancies with 31 considered judicial emergencies and an additional 17 openings pending, according to statistics from the U.S. Courts.

Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office would not provide details about the search to fill the vacancies in Indiana but said the Indiana Democrat has been working to identify qualified candidates.

“(Sen. Donnelly) is hopeful that following in the bipartisan tradition of past Hoosier Senators, including Sens. (Richard) Lugar and (Evan) Bayh, we will soon be able to advance nominees to fill these positions,” said Sarah Rothschild, communications director for Donnelly.

Candidates for the openings in the federal courts are traditionally recommended to the president by the state’s senators. Donnelly had been optimistic about naming a candidate by mid-2015 but he and Republican Sen. Dan Coats have not spoken publically about the vacancies since May when Coats called for the appointment of a judicial nominating commission to help find qualified individuals to serve in the federal courts.

Miller is scheduled to become a senior judge Jan. 11, 2016, the day after he marks his 30th anniversary as a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has had a vacancy since Judge Sarah Evans Barker stepped into senior status June 30, 2014. In addition, Indiana has a vacancy to fill on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals created by the retirement of Judge John Tinder in August 2015.

Although Barker is now a senior judge, she has continued to carry a full docket and expects to do so until a replacement is named. Miller is anticipating he will still handle a full load of cases as well.



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