‘Pipeline’ of judicial nominees may fill Northern Indiana’s pending vacancy

The White House announced Wednesday plans to nominate a handful of new district court judges, but not included on the short list was a nominee to fill the coming vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

The seat currently occupied by Chief Judge Theresa Lazar Springmann of the Northern Indiana District will become vacant when she takes senior status in January 2021. Already the Trump Administration has filled two judgeships on that court and now has the potential to get a third judge confirmed.

Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun began taking nominations in November 2019, shortly after Springmann announced her plans to become a senior judge. According to Young’s office, the Indiana senators and their staffs have been vetting and interviewing candidates for the position but they do not plan to make any announcement until President Donald Trump selects a nominee.

Of the nominees announced Wednesday, three were for district courts in Illinois and one was for a district court in Pennsylvania. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts lists 81 current vacancies and nine future vacancies in the federal courts.

Trump touted in the State of the Union address Tuesday his administration’s effort to fill open spots on the district and appellate benches as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate, we have confirmed a record number of 187 new federal judges to uphold our Constitution as written,” Trump said. “… And we have many in the pipeline.”

Since Trump took office, Judges J.P. Hanlon and James Sweeney have been confirmed to the Southern Indiana District Court and Judges Damon Leighty and Holly Brady have been confirmed to the Northern Indiana District Court.

Also, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Indiana seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. With Barrett and the three others who have joined the Chicago-based appellate court — judges Amy Joan St. Eve, Michael Brennan and Michael Scudder — Trump’s appointees now comprise nearly a third of that bench.

Springmann was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed June 24, 2003, the first woman to be confirmed to the Northern Indiana District Court. She became chief judge in February 2017.

After completing her undergraduate studies at Indiana University in 1977, Springmann earned her J.D. degree from Notre Dame Law School in 1980. She then clerked for now-Senior Judge James Moody of the Northern Indiana District before moving into private practice at Spangler Jennings Spangler and Dougherty P.C. in Merrillville. In 1995, she joined the Northern Indiana federal court as a magistrate judge.

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