Obama announces first judicial nomination

The president taps Judge David F. Hamilton of southern Indiana for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. A conservative legal group immediately objects, calling Hamilton an 'ultra-liberal.'

By David G. Savage
9:51 AM PDT, March 17, 2009
Reporting from Washington

President Obama announced his first judicial nomination today, elevating U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton from southern Indiana to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

White House officials described Hamilton as a seasoned judge who has shown an "empathy with real people" and who has bipartisan support in the Senate.

Hamilton once served as counsel to then-Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh, and he was chosen as a trial judge in 1994 by President Clinton. He also has the support of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.

"We are trying to set a tone here with these appointments," an Obama advisor told reporters in a background briefing. "We are eager to put the confirmation wars behind us."

But within minutes of announcing the first court nomination, a conservative legal group labeled Judge Hamilton an "ultra-liberal" who is a "former fundraiser for ACORN [a liberal group that ran voter registration drives] and a former leader of the Indiana chapter of the ACLU."

The Judicial Confirmation Network, which rallied support for President Bush's court nominees, said Judge Hamilton had issued "extreme rulings," including a decision that invalidated part of an Indiana law requiring the registration of sex offenders.

In 2005, Hamilton ruled the Indiana legislature may not open its sessions with overtly Christian prayers. That decision was later set aside by the 7th Circuit Court because the plaintiffs who challenged the state practice had suffered no harm and therefore, lacked standing to sue.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the Hamilton nomination a good start.

"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 Sen. Lugar and Sen. Bayh," Leahy said. "The president is doing his part to remove these matters from partisan politics and that's a health change."

The judge is the nephew of former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld ... 7322.story