WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee gave approval June 4 for the first time to federal appeals court nominees by President Obama, including one who has issued controversial rulings on abortion and prayer.
The committee voted 12-7 for David Hamilton’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, with all Democratic members in favor and all Republican members in opposition. The panel approved Andre Davis in a 16-3 vote, with GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Charles Grassley of Iowa and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma voting against his nomination to the Fourth Circuit.
The nominees await confirmation by the full Senate in order to take their places at the circuit court level.
Hamilton, who has served as a federal judge in Indiana since 1994, struck down in 2002 an Indiana law that required a woman to receive in-person counseling 18 hours before undergoing an abortion. A Seventh Circuit panel overturned Hamilton’s decision in a 2-1 decision.
The Seventh Circuit also reversed a 2005 opinion by Hamilton in which he ruled prayers in the Indiana legislature could not use “Christ’s name or title or any other denominational appeal.”
“All [ministers] are free to pray as they wish in their own houses of worship or in other settings,” Hamilton wrote in that decision. “The individuals do not have a First Amendment right, however, to use an official platform like the Speaker’s podium at the opening of a House session to express their own religious faiths.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has said Hamilton’s “record on the bench suggests a hostility to good law on issues of life and faith.”
President Clinton nominated both Hamilton and Davis to their federal judgeships. Davis has served as a federal judge in Maryland since 1995.
The Seventh Circuit is the appeals court for Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Fourth Circuit is the appeals court for Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, and Michael Foust, an assistant editor for Baptist Press.