By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 20, 2009 ( – Obama’s first judicial appointment, billed by White House officials as a moderate pick designed to ease partisan confirmation scuffles, has sparked concern among conservatives who are pointing out the nominee’s liberal record on life and other issues and say the pick sets a trend for future left-leaning appointees touted as “moderates.”

Obama on Tuesday picked U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, saying Hamilton “has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions.” The GOP senator from Hamilton’s home state of Indiana, Richard Lugar, paved the way for Senate confirmation with a statement that he would “enthusiastically support” the pick.

But conservative and pro-life leaders say they are wary of Hamilton, a former ACLU board member, whom they claim has a history of handing down activist decisions.  Prominent among the concerns was Hamilton’s handling of an Indiana abortion consent law, which would have required abortionists to give patients information on abortion alternatives at least eighteen hours before the scheduled procedure.

Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote ironically: “It’s far from clear what justifies the … characterization of Hamilton as a ‘moderate’…. maybe Hamilton’s extraordinary seven-year-long series of rulings obstructing Indiana’s implementation of its law providing for informed consent on abortion?”

Whelan cited a statement from the Seventh Circuit panel that overturned Hamilton’s obstruction:  “For seven years Indiana has been prevented from enforcing a statute materially identical to a law held valid by the Supreme Court in Casey, by this court in Karlin, and by the fifth circuit in Barnes. No court anywhere in the country (other than one district judge in Indiana [i.e., Hamilton]) has held any similar law invalid in the years since Casey.”  The court called Hamilton’s reasoning on the ruling “an abuse of discretion.”

“With ‘moderates’ like Hamilton, imagine what Obama’s ‘liberal’ nominees will look like,” wrote Whelan.

Hamilton has been involved in several other controversial cases, including a 2005 decision forbidding reference to Christ or the Christian God during the Indiana House’s daily invocation.

A group of prominent conservatives, including former Attorney General Ed Meese and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, issued a statement opposing the Hamilton nomination.

“As a judge, Hamilton has shown himself to be soft on crime, radically pro-abortion, and hostile towards religion. With such a liberal activist record unmarked by significant experience, Judge Hamilton is clearly a bad and politically motivated appellate nominee,” read the statement.


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