President Barack Obama’s first nominee for the federal bench, Judge David Hamilton for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, has been alternately described as a “moderate” and as an “ACLU liberal.” Likewise, those who follow judicial nominations have different ideas about what the choice means for future vacancies.
So what exactly did Hamilton do before 1994, when President Bill Clinton nominated him and the Senate confirmed him for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana?
He split most of his time between practicing corporate litigation at an Indianapolis firm and working for Indiana’s then-Gov. Evan Bayh, a Democrat. While in private practice, he frequently did pro bono work for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and was a board member and vice president there for a year — which the White House did not mention in announcing Hamilton’s nomination.
“Much of the counseling work involved application of antitrust law to joint ventures in health care and other industries,” Hamilton wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1994 of his time as an associate at Barnes & Thornburg. He wrote that he spent much of his time on trade secret cases, covenants regarding competition, and clients’ disputes with distributors and franchisees. Later, as a partner, he litigated a wide variety of commercial, constitutional, and regulatory disputes, he wrote.
In answering the Judiciary Committee's questions, Hamilton mentioned two cases he worked on with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. In 1984-85, he was lead counsel in challenging an Indiana law that put graduates of out-of-state nursing schools at a disadvantage. In 1987, he filed an amicus brief in the Indiana Court of Appeals in a case where a divorce court had terminated a father’s parental rights because he was infected with HIV; the brief argued that the decision amounted to unconstitutional discrimination, and the appeals court ruled in favor of the father.
“As vice president of litigation,” he wrote, “I also participated in evaluating and selecting cases for the ICLU to handle, and I often provided advice and assistance to the lead attorneys.”
After the jump, some details of Hamilton’s résumé as of June 1994, according to the background questionnaire he completed for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or click here (pdf) to read a scanned copy of the whole questionnaire. UPDATE: Or click here (pdf) to read Hamilton's 2009 questionnaire.
1991 to present — Partner at Barnes & Thornburg, Indianapolis, Indiana.
1991 to present — Partner in BT Building Company, a partnership which owns and operates the building where Barnes & Thornburg has its Indianapolis office.
1991 to present — Chair, Indiana State Ethics Commission
May 1994 to present — Chair, Marion County Traffic Safety Partnership Advisory Committee
1993 to present — Director of William E. Schmidt Foundation, a new charitable foundation
1989 to 1991 — Counsel to the Governor of Indiana on the Governor’s staff.
1984 to 1989 — Barnes & Thornburg, Indianapolis, Indiana, employed as an associate attorney.
Spring 1988 — Adjunct professor of law, Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington
1987 to 1988 — Vice president of litigation and board member of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.
1985 to 1986 — Treasurer and board member of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Housing Development Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation established by several churches.
1983 to 1984 — Law clerk to Hon. Richard D. Cudahy, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Other highlights: Hamilton spent a summer working for ACORN after college, he's an Eagle Scout, and he's spoken frequently to legal organizations and even high school classes.