Sweeney set to join busy Southern Indiana District Court

With the confirmation of James Sweeney II to the federal bench, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana will be getting a much-needed judge to fill a longstanding vacancy and help handle one of the heaviest dockets in the country.

Sweeney, who was nominated to the Southern Indiana District Court by President Donald Trump, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Tuesday. His confirmation will be sent to the White House where Trump will sign Sweeney’s commission, officially allowing him to assume the judicial office.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson is hopeful Sweeney will be able to start about mid-September. Although Sweeney has practiced in federal court, Magnus-Stinson said he will have to adjust from being an advocate to determining the appropriate decision under the law. He will also have to keep cases moving because the district has a high caseload per judge.

The Southern Indiana District has been designated a judicial emergency with the weighted filings reaching 821 per judge, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Currently, the court has five judgeships but is operating with three full-time judges and two senior judges.

Sweeney, who will fill the vacancy created when Judge Sarah Evans Barker took senior status in June 2014, will bring the court to four full-time judges. The other vacancy, created when Judge William Lawrence took senior status this summer, could be filled by James Hanlon, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels. His nomination has been approved by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

A partner at Barnes & Thornburg, Sweeney is co-chair of the firm’s federal contracting, procurement and national security practice group. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Notre Dame Law School and clerked for now-retired Judge John Tinder at the Southern Indiana District Court and now-retired Judge James Ryan of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For Sweeney, Magnus-Stinson offered the following advice: “Carefully listen to both sides, hire smart law clerks who can keep you up to the minute on the state of the law and enjoy it. It is a job of great variety, intellectual satisfaction and challenges.”

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