Sweeney nomination sails through Judiciary Committee

The nomination of James Sweeney II to the Southern Indiana District Court brought bipartisan unity Thursday to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary that was divided over other nominees to the federal bench.

Sweeney, partner at Barnes & Thornburg, was approved by the committee on a unanimous voice vote. He was among three district court nominees and one circuit court nominee considered by the Judiciary Committee and the only one to pass by voice vote.

His nomination now advances to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. If he is approved by the upper chamber, Sweeney will join the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, filling the seat formerly occupied by Judge Sarah Evans Barker. She took senior status at the end of June 2014.

The other nominees advanced by the committee were Kurt Engelhardt for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; Barry Ashe for the Eastern Louisiana District Court; and Howard Nielson, Jr., Utah District Court. All of them were given roll call votes with each member of the committee individually saying yes or no.

Michael Brennan, the nominee for the Wisconsin seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was also scheduled for a vote at the judiciary committee’s executive business meeting this morning. However, at the request of the Democrats, the vote on his nomination was held over until next week.

The committee was sharply divided over Nielson’s nomination, advancing him on a narrow 11-to-10 vote.

All the Democratic members of the judiciary body voted against Nielson, citing his work on torture memos produced during the George W. Bush administration and his arguing that a gay judge should have recused himself from litigation over California Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Republicans countered Nielson was part of the team at the U.S. Department of Justice that worked to withdraw the memos on torture and his positions in certain court cases reflect him zealously representing his clients.        

Sweeney testified before the judiciary committee Jan. 10. He was introduced to the committee by both Indiana Senators, Todd Young, Republican, and Joe Donnelly, Democrat.

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