- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama sent the Senate his first judicial nomination Tuesday, announcing that Indiana Judge David Hamilton is his choice for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Hamilton has served as a federal district judge for 14 years and was named chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in January 2008, the White House said.

“Judge Hamilton has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “He will be a thoughtful and distinguished addition to the 7th circuit and I am extremely pleased to put him forward to serve the people of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.”

The judge would fill the seat of Judge Kenneth F. Ripple, who retired.

The Hamilton nomination makes good on Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge for home-state consultation, and the support of Indiana’s senators — Richard G. Lugar, a Republican, and Evan Bayh, a Democrat — both of whom recommended Judge Hamilton for the post, helps clear the way for his confirmation.

It also meets the key test Senate Republicans set up to determine whether they would filibuster the Democratic president’s nominees.

Early reactions from Capitol Hill were favorable, and the nomination earned praise from a liberal group and caution from conservatives.

The 41 Republican senators recently sent a letter to the president urging him to work with home-state lawmakers and asking him as a show of good faith to renominate some of former President George W. Bush’s judicial picks.

An administration official would not comment on that request but told The Washington Times that the White House is consulting with Republicans — members of the Judiciary Committee and home-state senators — on future judicial nominations.

The official said the president would steadily announce more nominations in the coming weeks. The nominees would be announced when the president is confident they are ready to serve, the official said, speaking on a condition of anonymity since Mr. Obama has not yet made the nominations.

The nomination comes less than two months into the administration, meaning Mr. Obama is moving at a faster clip than Mr. Bush.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with the nomination, called the process a “healthy change.”

“After the partisan and divisive approach that President Bush took with judicial nominations, I appreciate President Obama’s seriousness in making his selection, and his constructive engagement with both Senator Lugar and Senator Bayh, the Republican and Democratic home-state senators,” he said. “The president is doing his part to remove these matters from partisan politics, and that’s a healthy change for the nation and for all three branches of government.”

Kathryn Kolbert, president of liberal group People for the American Way, called Mr. Hamilton an “ideal choice.”

“Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a willingness to put principle ahead of politics and bring an open mind to every case,” she said. “Judge Hamilton has shown a deep commitment to the rule of law and core constitutional principles of liberty, equality and justice for all Americans.”

She said the consultation with both senators is a “very good sign for the caliber of nominees we can expect from this president.”

But Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, questioned Judge Hamilton’s label in some news reports as a “moderate” and criticized his judicial record.

“With ‘moderates’ like Hamilton, imagine what Obama’s ‘liberal’ nominees will look like,” Mr. Whelan wrote at National Review Online.

In another NRO post, Wendy Long, counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network, labeled Judge Hamilton a “hard left political activist.”

Mr. Hamilton had been a partner at a private Indianapolis firm and was counsel for then-Gov. Bayh, now a Democratic U.S. senator, who recommended him for the nomination.

“President Obama is right that Democrats and Republicans can work together to put highly qualified jurists on the federal bench,” Mr. Bayh said in a statement. “Judge Hamilton is an exceptional jurist who has demonstrated the highest ethical standards and a firm commitment to applying our country’s laws fairly.”

Mr. Lugar also recommended Judge Hamilton and issued a supportive statement.

Judge Hamilton attended Yale Law School and studied at the University of Tuebingen in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship, the White House said.

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