The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, one of the busiest federal courts in the country, has been allotted another full-time magistrate judge position and is taking applications for the appointment, which will start April 1, 2021.
Authorized Tuesday by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the new position will bring the roster at the Southern Indiana District Court to six full-time and two part-time magistrate judges. This past summer, the Judicial Conference appealed to Congress for additional federal judgeships, including two new permanent judges in the Southern Indiana District Court.
Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said the need for additional district judges continues, but the new magistrate judge will help alleviate the overwhelming caseload. According to statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Southern District of Indiana had 1,196 weighted case filings per judgeship for the year ending June 30 — highest in the 7th Circuit and the second highest in the country.
The process for getting the new magistrate judge position started late last spring when Magnus-Stinson approached James Duff, director of the Administrative Office, at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals bench and bar conference.
“I just kind of cornered him and said, ‘My court is underwater and there’s got to be something that can be done to assist us in getting some resources because the caseloads are just overwhelming,’” Magnus-Stinson said.
From there, the district was able to receive some additional staff attorneys. Moreover, the Indianapolis-based federal court was one of just seven federal courts approved to receive a new magistrate judge position and one of only four that got funding for the position to start in 2021.
“In response to that initial conversation at a reception, we have received tremendous support from the administrative office and our whole entire court is eternally grateful to them for hearing our cry in the darkness,” Magnus-Stinson said. “It’s been a very positive experience.”
The chief judge hopes the addition of another magistrate judge will give all the magistrate judges the time to conduct settlement conference so civil cases can be resolved and not go to summary judgment. Motions for summary judgment take a great deal of the district judges’ time because those filings are very exacting and intense. For motions that are denied, a trial may follow.
A tremendous amount of time is saved, Magnus-Stinson said, when the magistrate judge is able to facilitate a settlement.
The Southern District is now accepting applications for the new magistrate judge position. The jurist will be housed in the Indianapolis division but may have additional duties in other divisions.
To qualify, applicants must:
- Be, and have been for at least five years, a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of a state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands of the United States, and have been engaged in the active practice of law for a period of at least five years (with some substitutions authorized).
- Be competent to perform all the duties of the office; be of good moral character; be emotionally stable and mature; be committed to equal justice under the law; be in good health; be patient and courteous; and be capable of deliberation and decisiveness.
- Be less than 70 years old.
- Not be related to a Judge of the District Court.
A Merit Selection Panel composed of attorneys and other members of the community will review all applicants and recommend to the district court judges, in confidence, the five persons panel members consider best qualified. The court will make the appointment after an FBI full-field investigation and an IRS tax check of the applicant selected by the court for appointment.
A number of other requirements apply. Application forms and more information on the magistrate judge position may be obtained in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court in Indianapolis, New Albany, Evansville, or Terre Haute, Indiana, and also are available on the District Court’s website.
The application window closes at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, Oct. 16. Questions regarding the position can be referred to Roger A. G. Sharpe, Clerk of Court, at [email protected] or 317-229-3700.