In describing his former colleague’s even demeanor and ability to remain cool in heated situations, Faegre Baker Daniels partner Matthew Albaugh finally had to create an original description: “not flusterable.”
“J.P. is good people,” Albaugh said of his former co-worker James Patrick Hanlon. “He is not flusterable, if that’s a word.”
Now when speaking of his friend, Albaugh can include the not-so-unique description of federal judge. Hanlon was confirmed on a voice vote by the U.S. Senate in October to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. He fills the vacancy created when Judge William Lawrence took senior status in July.
“He’s very calm, he takes everything in measured step,” Albaugh said of Hanlon. “I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen him lose his cool even in the hype of a stressful case situation. He’s very centered, he’s very focused, he’s just sort of unflappable.”
Hanlon, an Illinois native and 1996 magna cum laude graduate of Valparaiso Law School, goes to the judicial branch with a wide range of legal experience in both the private and public sector. He worked as an associate at the Chicago firms of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP and Seyfarth Shaw LLP and served as a law clerk for Judge Robert Miller, Jr., of the Northern Indiana District Court from 1997 to 1998.
In 2001, Hanlon joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern Indiana District as an assistant U.S. attorney. He represented the United States as both a prosecutor in criminal cases and defense counsel in civil cases, trying 14 cases to verdict or judgment in federal district court, and he took leadership roles in combating gang activity and violent crime, as well as training law enforcement.
Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Indianapolis, was the U.S. Attorney for Southern Indiana during Hanlon’s tenure in the office. She has high praise for him.
“As a former U.S. attorney who hired J.P. Hanlon as an assistant U.S. attorney, I’m beyond proud of his confirmation to the federal bench,” Brooks said in an emailed statement. “His work as both a civil and criminal division assistant U.S. attorney was exemplary. He was highly regarded as hard working and ethical by judges, federal agents, criminal defense attorneys and his colleagues. I’m confident he will serve with distinction.”
Hanlon then left the U.S. attorney’s office in 2006 and joined Faegre.
J. Murray Clark, partner at Faegre, also worked with Hanlon. In helping business clients with their compliance matters and other legal issues, Clark continues to be impressed by Hanlon’s depth of knowledge and practical approach.
“When dealing with clients who were dealing with challenges that were unusual for them, he has a very calming way about him,” Clark said. “He endears confidence … providing really sage practical advice. Clients really liked him.”
With Hanlon’s confirmation after Judge James Sweeney’s confirmation in August 2018, the Southern Indiana District Court has a full complement of judges and two senior judges. This is the first time the court has had a full bench since June 2014, when Judge Sarah Evans Barker took senior status. “It feels great,” Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said, speaking of the court after the October admission ceremony in Indianapolis.
The Southern Indiana District is among the busiest federal courts in the country and has been under a judicial emergency because of the vacancies on the bench. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, for the year ending June 2018, the Indianapolis-based district court logged 5,593 new civil cases filed, a 10.6 percent increase from the prior 12-month period, and had 7,101 cases pending, a 42.4 percent bump up from the year before.
For criminal cases, the Southern Indiana District had 377 new cases filed between June 2017 and June 2018, a 31.4 percent jump. Also, 426 cases were pending, a 30.3 percent increase.
Even with the two new judges, Magnus-Stinson said the caseload will still be heavy and remain well above average. But individual caseloads will likely fall as the work is distributed among more judges, which, the chief judge pointed out, will help reduce stress levels.
“It’s just nice to include new people on the courts,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to it. I think both of them, the new judges, have great reputations for hard work and integrity, and they’re also nice people. So we’re really happy.”
The Administrative Office has tagged the Southern Indiana District as needing two additional judges, but creating new judgeships would take an act of Congress. Magnus-Stinson said she did speak with the Indiana congressional delegation in March and was advised that the political reality is such that Capitol Hill would not create new seats on the bench.
Albaugh watched the Senate vote on his phone while attending his daughter’s basketball practice.
“It’s bittersweet,” Albaugh said. “We’re proud of him. He’s going to do amazing things and he’s going to be an incredible judge hopefully for decades, but we’re losing a valuable professional and we’re losing a friend.”•