History of judicial confirmation process to be featured at federal court symposium

The late Judge Larry McKinney of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana arrived into Washington, D.C., for his confirmation hearing in a recreational vehicle. He had brought along his family and the family dog in the summer of 1987 as he prepared for his close-up with the U.S. Senate.

Watching the judicial confirmation process today, McKinney’s story seems almost quaint. Some nominees put forth by President Donald Trump, like Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, have been subjected to contentious hearings. Others, like Matthew Spencer Petersen, who was nominated for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, stumble badly and withdraw their nomination.

The Southern Indiana District Court will be providing some perspective on the confirmation process as part of its 12th Annual Court History and Continuing Legal Education Symposium. Organized by the Historical Society of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the event will be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Sarah Evans Barker Courtroom of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, 46 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis.

Three hours of CLE credit are pending approval.

Registration is required for this event since space is limited. RSVP by Oct. 29 to [email protected].

Members of the Southern Indiana District Court historical society will receive complimentary registration. For non-members, the registration fee is $50 and includes a one-year membership to the historical society. The fee may be paid by cash check, or money order at the event. For more information contact Mary Giorgio at [email protected] or 317-229-3711.

Examining the confirmation process, court historian Doria Lynch and public outreach coordinator Giorgio will present “Paths to the Bench: Southern District of Indiana Appointments from William E. Steckler to Gene E. Brooks.” The presentation will examine the history of judicial nominations and appointments in the Southern Indiana District Court.

In addition, several current and former judges from Southern Indiana will participate in discussion of their experiences and paths to the federal bench. Inge Van de Cruysse, director of externships and clerkship placements at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, will moderate the session, which will include Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker and Judges Richard Young and James Patrick Hanlon of the Southern Indiana District Court and Judge David Hamilton of the 7th Circuit.

The Nov. 1 symposium will also look at two major projects completed this year which are related to the history of the Southern Indiana District Court.

In particular, the court will provide a brief synopsis of the Chief Justice Robert B. Taney mural alternation project, which is part of the national trend to remove inappropriate historical symbols from public spaces. Also, the court will discuss its work in cataloging Steckler’s papers in anticipation of making them publicly available.

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