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Southern Indiana District Court nominee scheduled for hearing

January 9, 2018

James R. Sweeney II, the nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is scheduled to appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary tomorrow.

The partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP will be questioned along with two other nominees, Barry Ashe and Howard Nielson, Jr. for district courts in Louisiana and Utah, respectively. Also, the nominee for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kurt Engelhardt, will appear by himself.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Sweeney was nominated Nov. 1, 2017 by President Donald Trump to fill the seat formerly held by Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker on the Southern Indiana District Court. Barker took senior status June 2014.

Winfield Ong, then Chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern Indiana District, was nominated in 2016 for Barker’s seat by President Barack Obama. He was unanimously confirmed on a voice vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee but never received a vote by the full Senate.

Both Sens. Todd Young, Republican, and Joe Donnelly, Democrat, have turned in their blue slips in support of Sweeney.

Born in Indianapolis, Sweeney graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1983 to 1992 then in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1992 until 2013.

He graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1996. He then was a law clerk for Judge John Tinder of the Southern Indiana District Court from 1996 to 1997 and for Judge James Ryan of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals from 1997 to 1998.

In 1999, he joined Barnes & Thornburg, becoming partner in 2005. His private practice focused on intellectual property, handling transactional matters as well as prosecutions before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to the questionnaire he submitted to the Senate committee.

Sweeney also served as lead counsel in several white collar criminal matters. The bulk of his litigation work has been in federal court.

He informed the Judiciary Committee that his most significant litigation work included his representation of a former executive vice president of Blackwater Worldwide, Inc., who was charged with felony violations of certain federal firearms laws; a former FBI agent accused of willfully disclosing national defense information; and 11 security contractors who were non-shooters in the Nisour Square incident in Iraq in 2007.

In addition, Sweeney represented Knauf Insulation LLC, Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse of Arundel, Inc., and Roche Diagnostics Corp. in separate patent disputes.

His pro bono work has included providing services to veterans and veteran organizations. Also, he was lead counsel in a pro bono case representing certain surviving crew members of the USS Pueblo and the widow of its commanding officer which ended in a $65 million judgment against the Government of North Korea.

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