Today the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on an Obama judicial nominee, David Hamilton, albeit not in the usual hearing room and without the standard webcast or many Republican Senators. Most committee Republicans refused to attend on the grounds that they were not given enough time to review Hamilton's record. Hamilton has been a federal district court judge in Indiana for nearly fifteen years. President Obama nominated Hamilton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit fifteen days ago -- limiting Republican Senators' ability to review his record. The BLT reports:
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee’s top Republican, said his staff received a background questionnaire from David Hamilton, nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, on March 18. Specter said the timing of the hearing kept his staff from fully examining Hamilton’s record, including 1,150 written opinions taking up 9,500 pages from Hamilton’s 15 years as a judge for the Southern District of Indiana.The AP reports that Hamilton is a potentially controversial nominee:
“The Constitution, as we all know, calls on the Senate to confirm. And indispensable to the confirmation process is an opportunity to examine the record of the individual. And that means a hearing, and that means questions and answers, and that means an opportunity to prepare,” Specter said.
Hamilton, a U.S. district judge from Indiana, has issued a number of controversial rulings in more than 1,100 opinions and nearly 15 years on the bench. He struck down the use of sectarian prayer to open the Indiana legislature and also ruled against a state law that required a woman seeking abortion services to receive counseling from her doctor. The counseling was required at least 18 hours before the procedure.More from CQ's Legal Beat and Ed Whelan.
Both decisions were reversed by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Hamilton would serve if confirmed. The circuit hears appeals from lower courts in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.
As I've argued before, I believe that the Senate should be fairly deferential to a President's judicial nominees, and ensure that all receive a prompt up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. Senators should have ample opportunity to review a nominee's record, but this should not be an excuse for undue delay. In this case, it seems to me Senator Leahy is rushing things along, imposing a tighter schedule than he would have tolerated when Republicans were in charge. Yet even with additional time, I doubt Senate Republicans will uncover anything that would justify opposing his confirmation. Even if Senator Leahy gives the Republicans more time, I expect he'll still be confirmed before the summer.