Senate Democrats are proving once again that no judicial nominee is too extreme for them to stomach. A move seems to be afoot to open debate on the Senate floor this week on the nomination of David Hamilton of Indiana to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. This judge is a radical’s radical.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on Friday to his fellow senators outlining his objections to Mr. Hamilton, who is a federal district judge. The senator first objected to Judge Hamilton’s stated belief that judges should effectively amend the Constitution - “writing footnotes to the Constitution,” the judge called it - through evolving case law. Second, Judge Hamilton has publicly and specifically embraced the president’s “empathy standard,” which even Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has now openly rejected.
Third, Judge Hamilton in many cases has shown an extreme hostility against innocuous expressions of religion in the public square. Mr. Sessions noted, though, that Judge Hamilton’s odd ruling in Hinrichs v. Bosma “prohibited prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives that expressly mentioned Jesus Christ … yet he allowed prayers which mentioned Allah.”
Fourth, Mr. Sessions pointed out that “lawyers in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary describe Judge Hamilton as one of the most lenient judges in his district on criminal matters,” including the case of a police officer who videotaped his own sexual encounters with two teenagers. The senator also objects to the judge’s extreme actions in blocking an “informed consent” law on abortion.
Finally, in light of the property rights movement stemming from the Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo decision, property rights advocates may want to take a close look at his representation of the city of Indianapolis in 1992 in Reel Pipe and Valve Co. v. City of Indianapolis, in which property owners were forced to sell property against their will to benefit other private “economic development.”
An Obama administration official has said the nomination is “a kind of signal” about the sorts of judges the president wants. In reviewing Judge Hamilton’s record, that signal should be seen as a red light warning senators to stop this nomination.