Pryor joins Southern District as magistrate judge

A new magistrate judge has begun her duties in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, filling a vacancy created by the August death of Magistrate Judge Denise K. LaRue.

The Southern District Court announced Thursday that Doris L. Pryor has begun serving as the court’s newest magistrate judge, joining the court seven months after LaRue died on Aug. 2 after a battle with cancer. The court announced Pryor’s appointment as magistrate judge in November.

As magistrate judge, Pryor will handle various civil matters in the Indianapolis and Terre Haute divisions, including conducting pretrial matters and evidentiary hearings and presiding over civil trials and dispositions upon consent of the litigants. After a period of recusal, Pryor will also conduct preliminary criminal proceedings and preside over misdemeanor trials and dispositions.

Pryor joins a court that has long been identified as the site of a “judicial emergency” in need of additional judges to lessen the caseloads current judges carry. The deaths of LaRue and Judge Larry McKinney further exacerbated the emergency.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson alluded to the court’s need for additional judicial resources in welcoming Pryor to the southern district bench.

“Her arrival comes at a time of great need for the court, and my fellow judges and I know that Judge Pryor will be successful in her new position,” Magnus-Stinson said in a Thursday statement. “Her intelligence, experience and commitment to the principle of equal justice for all will serve her well.”

A native of Arkansas who worked as a public defender and law clerk in her home state, Pryor graduated from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2003 and returned to Indiana in August 2006 to serve as a Southern District assistant U.S. attorney. Pryor was then named national security chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in September 2014 and remained in that role until mid-February 2018.

Pryor is currently serving as the program chair for the Federal Bar Association’s Indianapolis branch and is also involved with the Southern District’s Re-entry and Community Health, or REACH, program and the Just the Beginning Foundation, which is designed to develop an interest in the law among young people from underrepresented populations.

The new magistrate judge — who lives in Carmel with her husband and son — will serve an eight-year term and will then be eligible for reappointment. Pryor’s ascension to the bench comes about one month after the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary approved the nomination of Barnes & Thornburg partner James Sweeney to fill the Southern District vacancy left by Judge Sarah Evans Barker, who took senior status in June 2014.

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