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Southern District’s Lawrence to take senior status in 2018

December 13, 2017

Judge William T. Lawrence for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, has announced his decision to take senior status July 1, 2018, creating another opening in the Southern District that already has one judicial vacancy and is still recovering from the loss of two colleagues.

Lawrence has notified President Donald Trump of his intentions to retire and plans to continue to serve as a senior judge. 

“It has been my honor to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana,” Lawrence said. “It has been an immense privilege to serve on a court whose judicial officers, without exception, endeavor each and every day to remain faithful to our oaths of office and to apply the law fairly and equally to all parties who appear before us.”

The Southern Indiana District Court has been designated as having a judicial emergency because its caseload outweighs the number of judges and magistrate judges it has available.

Currently, the court has a vacancy that opened when Judge Sarah Evans Barker took senior status in June 2014.

Trump has nominated James Sweeney II, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LL,P but the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary has yet to schedule a hearing. Winfield Ong of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana was tapped by President Barack Obama to fill Barker’s seat but the Senate never held a confirmation vote.

In addition, the Southern Indiana District Court lost two colleagues this year. Magistrate Judge Denise LaRue died in August after a battle with cancer and Senior Judge Larry McKinney died unexpectedly in September. Doris Pryor, national security chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana, was selected to fill LaRue’s seat.

Lawrence credited the judges and staff of the Southern Indiana District with maintaining the court’s efficiency even under difficult circumstances.

“Despite the fact that we are laboring under a judicial emergency, and indeed have the second highest weighted caseload among the 94 federal judicial districts in the nation, this court continues to resolve cases as efficiently as possible while ensuring that each litigant’s position receives the attention that justice requires,” he said. “This would simply not be possible without the passionate commitment of each member of the court to the bedrock principles upon which our nation was founded.

A native of Mooresville and a graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Lawrence was the first Magistrate judge in the Southern District to become a District Judge. He joined the federal court in November 2002 as a magistrate judge. Then he was confirmed as a judge on June 30, 2008, after President George Bush nominated him to fill the vacancy created when Judge John Tinder joined the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prior his tenure on the federal bench, Lawrence served in Marion County courts. He was elected Marion Circuit Judge from 1996 to 2002 after serving as a master commissioner there for more than 13 years. He also worked on major felony cases as a public defender in the Marion County criminal courts for nine years.

In 2012 and again in 2015, Lawrence was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts to the criminal law committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference.

Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson praised Lawrence’s service during his 35-year career in the law and his service to the federal court.

“He is everything that litigants deserve to have in a judge: fair, patient, intelligent, and well-reasoned,” she said. “While my fellow judges and I are sad to see Judge Lawrence begin to wind down his career, we are delighted that he will be staying on as a senior judge and continuing to serve our citizens and our Court.”

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