Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hamilton Expected To Be Nominated To 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Indiana's Judge David Hamilton of the federal district court for the Southern District of Indiana is expected to be President Barack Obama's first nominee to a vacant position on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals according to the NY Times' Neil Lewis. Hamilton will also be Obama's first choice for any court of appeals opening. Lewis writes:

Judge Hamilton, who is said by lawyers to represent some of his state’s traditionally moderate strain, served as counsel to Senator Evan Bayh when Mr. Bayh was the state’s governor; he is also a nephew of former Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana.

A senior administration official said Judge Hamilton would have the support of both Mr. Bayh, a Democrat, and the state’s other senator, Richard G. Lugar, a Republican. He will be nominated for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago.

The administration official said part of the reason for making the Hamilton nomination the administration’s first public entry into the often contentious field of judicial selection was to serve “as a kind of signal” about the kind of nominees Mr. Obama will select. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination had not been officially made . . .

Judge Hamilton was named to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994. As a trial judge largely bound to the rulings of higher courts, he has had few opportunities to demonstrate any ideological leanings.

He did receive attention for two rulings striking down actions of conservatives in the Indiana legislature. In 2005, he made news by ruling that the legislature was prohibited from beginning its sessions with overtly Christian prayers.

The decision drew widespread criticism in the legislature and across the state. On appeal, a panel of the Seventh Circuit dismissed the ruling, saying the people in whose name the American Civil Liberties Union had brought the suit lacked standing because they had not been harmed by the prayers. In 2008, Judge Hamilton struck down as unconstitutional an amendment to the state law requiring convicted sex offenders to provide the authorities with personal information, including any e-mail addresses or user names. The amendment would also have required the offenders to agree to allow their home computers to be searched at any time and to pay for a program to allow monitoring of their Internet use.

The judge said the amendment cut into the heart of a person’s right to privacy in his home. “The ability of the individual to retreat into his home and therefore to be free from unreasonable intrusion by the government stands at the very core” of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, he said.

Judge Hamilton graduated from Yale Law School before serving as a law clerk to Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the Seventh Circuit, who is generally viewed as a liberal jurist.

By naming judges one at a time, Mr. Obama is taking a markedly different approach from former President George W. Bush, who held a ceremony on May 9, 2001, in the Rose Garden to present his first 11 choices for appeals court seats. The ceremony provided a political air to the nominations, most of which went to prominent conservatives.

A big hat tip to the Indiana Law Blog.


Russell said...

I have always been impressed with his rulings, but am curious what you think of him, AI. I don't know him personally but I assume that as a lawyer you've run across him in different arenas, so I was wondering if you could give me your take on Hamilton.

Will his appointment create a huge conservative backlash?

Gary R. Welsh said...

He gets high marks from Democrats and Republicans alike as a district court judge. A Court of Appeals judge is bound by Supreme Court rulings. The current conservative majority would keep in check any liberal leanings he might have if that is a concern. It's not always easy to determine just how liberal or conservative a judge is based upon his work as a trial court judge. Those leanings become more apparent once a judge reaches the appellate level.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Judge Hamilton does get high marks from most Republicans and Democrats. Quite honestly, and I have to be very careful here, the experience most people recount of JH isn't at all the experience I or my law firm have had.

My favorite judge of all time in the Southern District was Judge Tinder. You didn't have to be representing a big law and your client could be an average Joe up against a big corporation, Judge Tinder would always treat the parties fairly and apply the law the impartially, regardless of the parties or the law firms representing them. That's what I want from my judges.

Dana said...

I was an average Jo-ann against a big corporation. Judge David Hamilton could not have been more UNFAIR, disrespting basic rules of court and the LAW. And, he totally disregarded the rights of women in the workplace ultimately encouraging terror on the part of the "offender". I could have appealed but after seeing how CORRUPT and BRAZEN the lower court judges can be I was dismayed and lacked all confidence in our "system of justice". I had no choice but to move on, financially devastated and disillusioned. By the way, the offender was acquitted, years prior, on an "OJ-type technicality" charged with premeditated MURDER! He walks the streets, hiding behind company curtains, terrorizing professional women and destroying hard earned careers. Appalling on many fronts!