David Hamilton

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David Hamilton
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Current Court Information:
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Title:   Judge
Station:   Indianapolis, IN
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Active:   11/23/2009-Present
Preceded by:   Kenneth Ripple
Past post:   Southern District of Indiana
Past chief:   2008-2009
Past term:   10/11/1994-11/24/2009
Past position:   Seat #3
Personal History
Born:   1957
Hometown:   Bloomington, IN
Undergraduate:   Haverford College, 1979
Law School:   Yale Law School, 1983

David Frank Hamilton is a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He was nominated to the court by President Obama and was confirmed in November 2009.[1]


Hamilton received his B.A. from Haverford College in 1979 and his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1983. His graduate work was performed as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.[1]

Professional career

  • 1991-1994: Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg
  • 1991-1994: Chair, Indiana State Ethics Commission
  • 1989-1991: Counsel to Indiana Governor Evan Bayh
  • 1984-1989: Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg
  • 1986-1987: Member, Indiana State Recount Commission
  • 1983-1984: Law clerk to Judge Richard Cudahy of the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals[1]

Judicial career

Seventh Circuit


Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:David Hamilton
 Court:Seventh Circuit
 Progress:Confirmed 247 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:March 17, 2009
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAQuestionnaire:(dead link) Questionnaire
ApprovedAHearing:April 29, 2009
ApprovedAReported:June 4, 2009 
ApprovedAConfirmed:November 19, 2009
 Vote: 59-39

Hamilton was the first judicial nominee from President Barack Obama. He was nominated to a position on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.[2] He was nominated to succeed Kenneth Ripple who assumed senior status in 2008. It was reported by the Indianapolis Star that both Indiana U.S. Senators Dick Lugar and Evan Bayh made the recommendation to President Obama to nominate Judge Hamilton.

Hamilton's confirmation questionnaire is available here (dead link).


Hamilton was confirmed to the Seventh Circuit by the Senate on November 19, 2009 by a 59-39 vote.[3][4] Senator Lugar was the only Republican to vote for him.[5]

On May 22, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to whether to allow Judge Hamilton to be moved onto a full Senate floor. The Senate Republicans who serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to allow a temporary block on Judge Hamilton. In blocking the nomination, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Jeff Sessions objected harshly by stating: "Our members are concerned about this nominee. He has had a number of troubling rulings dealing with a series of prayers at the Indiana Legislature." Senator Patrick Leahy agreed to delaying the nominee, but defended Judge Hamilton by stating: "He (Judge Hamilton) is, after all, the son of a minister and he believes very strongly in the constitutional separation of church and state."[6]

On June 4, 2009 the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to report the nominee favorably on a 12-7 party line vote. Hamilton was confirmed by the Senate on November 18, 2009.[7]

Criticism of nomination

Some conservative groups denounced Hamilton as too liberal to serve on the Seventh Circuit. The Judicial Confirmation Network said that Hamilton has a "pretty clear leftist political record." Pro-life group LifeNews call Hamilton President Obama's "first pro-abortion judicial candidate."[8]

Support for nomination

Senator Evan Bayh, who Hamilton worked with as counsel when Bayh was Governor of Indiana, recommended Hamilton for the seat on the Seventh Circuit. He said:

On the merits, Judge Hamilton is an accomplished jurist who is well qualified to be elevated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He has served with distinction as a United States District Judge for almost 15 years, during which time he has presided over approximately 8,000 cases. Since January 2008, he has served as the Chief Judge for the Southern District of Indiana, where he has been widely praised for his effective leadership style. Throughout his career, Judge Hamilton has demonstrated the highest ethical standards and a firm commitment to applying our country's laws fairly and faithfully.[9][10]


Republican Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions attempted a filibuster of Hamilton's nomination. Sessions conceded that he probably lacked the necessary votes to prevent a final vote on Hamilton's confirmation and the filibuster ended with a 70-29 vote. Only 60 votes were needed to end the filibuster; 10 Republicans voted along with Democrats to limit the debate.[11][12][13]

A filibuster was rumored shortly after Hamilton's nomination was made public. This was despite the bipartisan recommendation of Hamilton from moderate Republican Senator Dick Lugar and Democratic Senator Evan Bayh.[14]

Southern District of Indiana

Hamilton was nominated to a seat on the Southern District of Indiana by President Bill Clinton on June 8, 1994. Hamilton was confirmed to the federal bench on October 7, 1994 on a majority voice vote and received his commission on October 11, 1994.[15] Hamilton succeeded Samuel Dillin on the court. He served as Chief Judge of the court from 2008 to 2009. Hamilton was succeeded in this position by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.[16]

Notable cases

Sex offender registries and privacy rights (2008)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (John Doe, Steve Morris, et al., v. Prosecutor, Marion County, Indiana, et al., 1:08-cv-00436-DFH-TAB)

In 2008, Hamilton struck down an amendment to state law requiring convicted sex offenders to provide personal information such as e-mail addresses to the authorities, permit searches of their home computers at any time, and to pay for a program that would monitor their internet use. Hamilton called the law unconstitutional and said that, "'The ability of the individual to retreat into his home and therefore to be free from unreasonable intrusion by the government stands at the very core' of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches."[17]

Prayer in IN legislature (2005)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Anthony Hinrichs, et al., v. Brian Bosma, 1:05-cv-0813-DFH-TAB)

In 2005, Judge Hamilton ruled that the legislature could not open session with overtly Christian prayers. This ruling received criticism from the legislature, and was overruled upon appeal to the Seventh Circuit based on the plaintiffs' standing.[17][18]

Requiring waiting periods for abortions (2002)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (A Woman's Choice-East Side Women's Clinic, et al., v. Scott C. Newman, et al., IP95-1148-C-H/G)

In 2002, Judge Hamilton ruled that requiring a woman seeking an abortion to visit the clinic twice prior to the procedure an "undue burden" on her. His ruling was struck down upon appeal to the Seventh Circuit, where it was ruled that waiting periods for abortions are constitutional.[2][18]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Judge Hamilton Biography from the Federal Judicial Center
  2. 2.0 2.1 Los Angeles Times, "Obama announces first judicial nomination," March 18, 2009
  3. Associated Press, "Senate Confirms Obama's Controversial Judicial Nominee," November 19, 2009
  4. Associated Press, "Senate confirms controversial judge," November 19, 2009 (dead link)
  5. Indy Star, "U.S. Senate confirms Hoosier nominee," November 19, 2009
  6. "Philadelphia Inquirer" GOP Blocks David Hamilton nomination, May 21, 2009 (dead link)
  7. Christian Science Monitor, "Obama court nominee David Hamilton clears Senate hurdle," November 17, 2009
  8. LifeNews, "President Barack Obama Makes First Pro-Abortion Judicial Pick in David Hamilton," March 17, 2009
  9. Senate Judiciary Committee, "Senator Evan Bayh's Statment on David Hamilton," April 1, 2009
  10. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  11. Fox News, "Senator Plans to Filibuster Obama Judicial Appointee," November 16, 2009
  12. Politico, "Senate GOP will try to block nominee," November 16, 2009
  13. Associated Press, "Controversial court nominee survives Senate test," November 17, 2009 (dead link)
  14. HotAir, "Judge Hamilton's Nomination may be Filler Bustered," April 1, 2009
  15. Library of Congress: THOMAS, search for David Hamilton
  16. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named FJC_Bio
  17. 17.0 17.1 New York Times, "Moderate Is Said to Be Pick for Court," March 17, 2009
  18. 18.0 18.1 The Wall Street Journal, "Meet David Hamilton, Obama's Possible First Appellate Court Pick," March 17, 2009
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Samuel Dillin
Southern District of Indiana
Seat #3
Succeeded by:
Tanya Walton Pratt
Preceded by:
Ken Ripple
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by: