Today, the Senate may vote to limit debate on the nomination of Judge David Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, a significant federal court which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and whose opinions are more often than not the final word in cases. By limiting debate, Senators will barely have time to scratch the surface of Hamilton’s record of radicalism before considering whether to confirm him for this important, lifetime position.
Judge Hamilton, currently a federal trial court judge in Indiana, has a long career of liberal political and judicial activism, though the media has touted him as a “moderate.” His political background involves fundraising for ACORN and serving as vice president for litigation and a board member for Indiana’s ACLU branch. His rulings as a district judge reveal an inability to part with the extreme political leanings that are characteristic of these two organizations.
For example, the very court to which Hamilton is nominated overturned a series of his rulings that blocked enforcement of an Indiana law requiring informed consent for abortions. The language in the 7th Circuit’s majority’s opinion laments Hamilton’s blithe disregard for the rule of law: “No court anywhere in the country (other than one district judge in Indiana) has held any similar law invalid in the years since Casey.” That “one district judge in Indiana” refers to Hamilton himself.
This isn’t the only time that the appellate court was forced to correct Hamilton’s activism. In 2007, the appeals court overturned a case in which Hamilton ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause for the Indiana House of Representatives to invoke the name of Jesus Christ during prayer, yet it does not violate the Constitution to invoke the name of Allah. It doesn’t take a First Amendment scholar to see the illogic behind this reasoning. The 7th Circuit also overturned his decision forbidding a Rabbi from displaying a Menorah as part of the Indianapolis Municipal Building’s holiday display.
The 7th Circuit’s need to rebuke Hamilton expands far beyond religious liberty cases. They overturned a ruling in which Hamilton invoked the doctrine of “substantive due process” to suppress evidence of a criminal defendant’s possession of marijuana. “Substantive due process” is known as the “judicial wildcard,” which activist judges use to insert just about any policy preference he or she chooses into the law. So much for a “moderate” pick.
This is just one of many criminal law cases where Hamilton has displayed a tendency to be soft on crime. In fact, lawyers reported in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary that Hamilton is one of the most lenient judges in his district in criminal cases. A prime example of this is a 2007 case in which Hamilton requested clemency for a 32-year old police officer who pled guilty to two counts of producing child pornography after videotaping his “consensual” sexual activities with two teenagers.
When the Hamilton nomination was announced in March, a senior official of the Obama administration declared that the nomination of Hamilton should serve as “a kind of signal” about the type of nominees the president will choose. If that is so, those of us who believe the judiciary should be a bulwark of unbiased justice ought to be worried. Senators who believe likewise should demand sufficient time to review and debate Hamilton’s activist record.