Obama to Make Seventh Circuit Nomination

Posted on Categories Seventh Circuit

The New York Times reports today that President Obama is set to nominate David Hamiliton, a federal district court judge in Indiana, to an open seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  Judge Hamilton is said to be a moderate who has the support of both of Indiana’s senators, Democrat Evan Bayh and Republican Richard Lugar.  This will be Obama’s first judicial nomination, so it will no doubt be watched especially carefully for indications of what is to come as other openings are filled.

6 thoughts on “Obama to Make Seventh Circuit Nomination”

  1. The New York Times may label Judge Hamilton as a moderate, but his record calls that designation into question.

    As Wendy Long points out on BenchMemos, Judge Hamilton was a fundraiser for the left-wing organizing group ACORN and vice president for litigation and a board member of the Indiana ACLU.

    Ed Whelan furher notes on BenchMemos that Judge Hamilton has an “extraordinary seven-year-long series of rulings obstructing Indiana’s implementation of its law providing for informed consent on abortion.”

    At least perhaps this nomination tells us something about how President Obama will treat the ABA ratings, given that the ABA panel called him “not qualified” for the district court in 1994.

  2. Ed Whalen is useless.

    For a considerably more enlightening discussion of Frank Easterbrook’s cranky substitution of his own personal speculation for Hamilton’s more carefully empirical reasoning, see here* at pp. 363-67.

    And Obama is president in 2009, when the ABA rated Hamilton well qualified.

    * .pdf, 70 pgs.

  3. I happen to think Ed Whalen is the man, and that Bench Memos is one of the most interesting and important legal blogs in the country.

    In addition to the ACLU/ACORN connection and the abortion case, folks are also asking questions about the Indiana legislative prayer decision that Judge Hamilton authored.

    Perhaps, Thomas, even if we disagree on whether Judge Hamilton has the kind of judicial philosophy that the president should be putting on the Court, we can at least agree that the New York Times’ label of “moderate” is inaccurate.

  4. Does the President put judicial philosophies on the bench or judges?

    I think we all know that the classification of judges and their philosophies is really just code for Democrat or Republican, right? A liberal or moderate judge is a Democrat and a conservative judge is Republican, at least in the common usage. I think all the New York Times‘ label is telling the reader is that President Obama will appoint judges that are, broadly speaking, “Democrats,” just like President Bush appointed judges that were, broadly speaking, “Republicans.”

    I don’t know that this way of appointing federal judges is necessarily what the country wants or needs, but it is clear that this is how the judicial selection game is and will be played. Really can we expect the system to work any other way? It should come as no surprise that a partisan official (the President) makes his selections in a mostly partisan manner.

  5. It seems to me that those who are questioning the NYT‘s characterization are grounding their concerns on two or three rulings plucked from a 15-year career as a federal trial judge rather than testimony from Hamilton’s colleagues and practitioners with direct experience in his court.

    I would accord the latter portrayals more weight than that of some axe-sharpening ideologue at NRO.

    This is Ed Whelan et al‘s standard practice, of course. It’s funny, for all the conservative handwringing over “results-oriented” judges, they certainly evince a singular obsession with results themselves.

    Worse still, only those selectively cherry-picked results which resonate with their preordained sense of social and moral outrage.

    And what Judge Hamilton’s ancient association with “ACLU/ACORN” has to do with his “judicial philosophy” — whatever that may be — I have no idea.

    One thing I can say for sure is that I’m looking forward with great enthusiasm to the comic performances of Senators Cornyn and Coburn at Judge Hamilton’s confirmation hearings.

  6. Chris, yes, presidents put judges on the bench, but those judges hold different, sometimes radically different, judicial philosophies. And I think we should push back when the NY Times calls Hamilton a “moderate,” because clearly he is not.

    Mr. Foley urges that we look at the direct experience of practitioners in Judge Hamilton’s court. Mr. Whelan has looked the Judge up in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, and finds that practitioners describe him as “lenient,” “liberal,” “leans towards the defense,” and “very empathetic.”

    And as regards the ABA, Law.com reports today on a forthcoming academic study showing the liberal bias of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

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