WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama chose an Indiana judge with some bipartisan support for his first judicial nomination Tuesday, announcing he wants to elevate U.S. District Judge David Hamilton to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
White House aides described Hamilton as a careful judge who follows the law and also has shown "empathy for real people with real problems." They said Obama is sending a signal with his first judicial pick that he will consult with Senate Republicans.
But a conservative legal group labeled Hamilton an "ultra-liberal" who is a "former leader of the Indiana chapter of the ACLU."
The Judicial Confirmation Network, which rallied support for President George W. Bush's court nominees, said Hamilton had issued "extreme rulings," including a decision that barred overtly Christian prayers in the Indiana Legislature and another that blocked enforcement of a part of an Indiana abortion law that required pregnant women to make two trips to a clinic before having an abortion.
Hamilton said the required advance visit to hear in person a warning about the risks of abortion amounted to an "undue burden" on the woman's right. The 7th Circuit disagreed in a 2-1 ruling in 2002. The appeals court also set aside Hamilton's ruling on prayers in the Legislature.
But Hamilton drew wide praise from lawyers and law professors in Indiana, including the president of the local Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.