Exactly one year to the day after she was nominated for the federal bench, Fort Wayne attorney Holly Brady was confirmed Wednesday as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. She is the first judge to join the court since May 2010 and just the second woman to serve as a judge in that district.
She was confirmed on a 56-42 vote, picking up some Democratic support from Sens. Joe Manchin, West Virginia, Doug Jones, Alabama, and Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona. After the Senate voted 56-43 on cloture early Wednesday afternoon, the full Senate confirmed her shortly before 4 p.m.
Brady will fill the seat vacated when Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen took senior status in September 2017. She will be the first new judge to join the Northern Indiana District Court since Jon DeGuilio was confirmed in May 2010. She also is the second woman to be confirmed as a judge in the Northern Indiana District, with Chief Judge Theresa Springmann, who was confirmed in June 2003, being the first.
The judges of the Northern Indiana District Court congratulated Brady on her confirmation.
“Holly Brady has been an exceptional attorney practitioner in this Court for many years and the same skills which allowed her to excel as an attorney will make her an outstanding District Court Judge,” Springmann said in a statement. “The judges of this Court welcome Holly and look forward to serving with her on the Court.”
Brady spent her entire legal career in private practice in Fort Wayne, most recently as an attorney at Haller & Colvin, P.C. She has practiced in state and federal courts, handling primarily employment and labor law cases. She also has been active in the Allen County Bar Association and served as a board member for the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center, the Northern District of Indiana Federal Community Defenders and American Inns of Court, Benjamin Harrison Chapter.
A 1994 graduate of Valparaiso University Law School, Brady was a law clerk to now-retired Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Ryan and now-Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts. She earned a civil mediator certificate in 2013 from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
The summer prior to law school, Brady was an umpire for the RAM Softball League in Fort Wayne.
“Holly Brady will make an outstanding U.S. district court judge in Indiana,” Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, said in a statement. “Holly has deep roots in the Fort Wayne community and has had a strong federal practice. Her credentials are impressive and I believe she will become a strong jurist with a commitment to the rule of law.”
Road to confirmation
Nominated by President Donald Trump in April 2018, Brady got to the confirmation vote solely on Republican support. She was opposed by the reproductive rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. In particular, the nonprofit saw her dismissal of the concerns surrounding Indiana’s controversial 2015 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act as minimizing the “very real fears of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or personal reproductive-heath decisions.”
She had a rough hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, being pressed by Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, on how she would rule in a case involving a Batson challenge, which bars peremptory challenges such as the dismissal of a juror solely on the basis of race. But she was eventually sent to the floor on an 11-10 vote.
However, she had to be renominated after the upper chamber failed to vote on her or more than 40 other nominees to the federal bench before the 115th Congress adjourned in December 2018. Again, the Judiciary Committee approved her nomination on a 12-10 party-line vote
Young took a swipe at Democrats, blaming them for the delayed confirmation even though former Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, had supported Brady’s nomination and the Judiciary Committee quit voting on nominees late last year after former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, threatened to withhold his support unless the Senate took steps to protect then-special counsel Robert Mueller from political interference.
“After waiting a year since her nomination, I’m proud that Holly can now serve Hoosiers in Indiana’s Northern District,” Young said. “It’s unfair qualified nominees have been put on hold and used as a political ploy. I’m glad that we are finally able to confirm one of those nominees today.”
The path to confirmation for Brady and the other judicial nominees was made easier after the Republican majority in the Senate changed the rule to allow only two hours of debate after a cloture vote. Under the old rule, each nominee could be debated for up to 30 hours.
Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, believes the roughly 40-plus nominees to the federal bench already on the floor will now move quickly to confirmation, possibly within the next 10 weeks.
In particular, the district court nominees will likely get easily confirmed since, Tobias said, they have tended not be igniting strong opposition either from within the Senate or among outside groups. The reason for their lower profile is because home-state senators have largely been choosing the district court candidates. Rather than put forth ideological firebrands, they have tapped individuals who will do what the senators consider to be the most important work of a district court judge, which is to move the docket along.
The Northern District of Indiana had the third-lowest number of cases filed during 2018 in the 7th Circuit at 2,639, according to the data from the U.S. Courts Administration. With five judgeships on the court, each judge had 528 filings.
Another Hoosier still awaiting confirmation is Damon Leitchy, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, who has been nominated to fill the seat vacated by Senior Judge Robert Miller, Jr. Leitchy, like Brady, had to be renominated but was approved by the Judiciary Committee on a voice vote.
The Senate has not scheduled a final vote on his confirmation.