Like many other court watchers and lawyers, I’ve been waiting to see who Obama would nominate to the federal bench. Well the waiting is now over. This week Obama made his first judicial nomination to the federal court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit (which covers federal appeals from Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois).
Obama picked a federal trial court judge named David Hamilton, a 15 year trial judge appointed to the federal bench in Indiana by President Clinton. Both the Democrat and Republican Senators from Indiana support Hamilton’s appointment to the Seventh Circuit, but some conservative groups have already expressed their dislike for Hamilton because he believes in the constitution formerly represented the ACLU.
It is interesting how certain Republicans and conservative groups are already whining about Obama’s first appointment and calling for more “bipartisanship” in judicial appointments. You know, the kind of bipartisanship that Bush completely ignored when he stacked the federal courts full of conservative idealogues (please don’t ask me for a list of their names– although many of us who practice in federal court know them well).
It is unfortunate that most people do not know what happens in the federal courts. They hear only about big-ticket issues like abortion, gun control, and gay rights. But what about the thousands of civil rights lawsuits against corrupt police officers and other corrupt law enforcement personnel? Many of those cases go unnoticed. In those cases is where the idealogues control the federal courts.
Washington Post Staff Writer Jeffrey Smith recently wrote an expose about Bush’s picks to the federal courts and how his judges have locked up (pun intended) the federal courts of appeals to follow their philosophies. Smith is correct when he writes that:
Although the impact of Bush’s judicial appointments is most often noticed at the Supreme Court, it has played out much more frequently and more importantly here and in the nation’s 12 other appellate courts, where his appointees and their liberal counterparts are waging often-bitter ideological battles. After Bush’s eight years in office, Republican-appointed majorities firmly control the outcomes in 10 of these courts, compared with seven after President Bill Clinton’s tenure. They also now share equal representation with Democratic appointees on two additional courts.
Although exceptions exist, of course, independent legal scholars say Bush’s picks in particular have been more likely than Democratic appointees to uphold the positions of police and prosecutors, and less likely to alter verdicts because of procedural and legal mistakes in handling defendants.
So now that Bush has stacked the federal courts with his judicial picks naturally conservative groups and GOP Senators want Obama to play partisan with his judicial nominees. In any event, Obama’s first nominee, David Hamilton, seems to enjoy bipartisan support from his home state senators and should be confirmed.