When Damon Leichty — Indiana’s newest district court judge — was confirmed on July 11, our state had for the first time in years a full slate of federal judges.
When I was sworn into office in January 2017, there were four vacancies on the bench in Indiana. A few months later, a fifth seat came open.
This was bad news for our state. Indiana’s two district courts have been overloaded with cases. Things were especially bad in the Southern District — basically everything south of Kokomo — which had to borrow judges from Wisconsin to handle some of our cases.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
But these vacancies also presented an opportunity. Most Hoosiers believe — as I do — that our federal judges should follow the Constitution as written, and I vowed as a candidate to seek out judges who would not legislate from the bench. So finding qualified judges was among my first orders of business.
How did we do this?
We put out a call for the best legal minds in Indiana. We literally posted the job online and started screening applicants.
From that applicant group, we sent the best names to President Trump. These are names most Hoosiers don’t know, but can be proud of for their relentless adherence to the rule of law.
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Amy Coney Barrett was a Notre Dame law professor and mother of seven who is now on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. She had unanimous support from her fellow law professors, students, and former fellow clerks, but she came under fire from Senate Democrats simply because she is a practicing Catholic. The Constitution prohibits religious tests for these positions, but you can count that among the provisions in that document that the far Left doesn’t like.
Nevertheless, Barrett was confirmed and has already been talked about as a future Supreme Court Justice.
In the Northern District, Leichty and Judge Holly Brady bring years of legal practice and the right judicial temperament to the bench.
In the Southern District, J.P. Hanlon and James Sweeney have already begun helping alleviate the backlog of cases, though experts agree we need more judges serving this district.
Indiana is not the exception. It is the rule. Republicans in the United States Senate have confirmed a total of 121 of Trump’s judicial appointments to the bench. That includes two Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The makeup of the courts will matter immensely in coming years. As difficult cases work their way through the system, I take comfort in knowing that Indiana’s judges will apply the facts of the case to the law of the land and not make or break precedent based on personal feelings or policy preferences.
When it comes to the judicial branch, there’s too much at stake.