False "Moderation" from Legal Reporter Neil Lewis

With the first judicial pick of the Obama administration, the Times carries on its tradition of calling liberal judges (like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) "moderate."

Liberally slanted legal reporter Neil Lewis has a scoop-let on President Obama's anticipated first court appointment, the "moderate" Judge David Hamilton, to the federal appeals court in Chicago ("Moderate Is Said to Be Pick for Court").

Lewis saw this upcoming move as a "signal" Obama's future appointees would be "moderate" as well. But how truly moderate is David Hamilton, federal trial court judge in Indiana and former board member for the Indiana ACLU?

Lewis provides no evidence, only the vague assertion that Hamilton "is said by lawyers to represent some of his state's traditionally moderate strain." But that seal of approval has a certain "strained" quality itself; if Hamilton is "said" to "represent some" of Indiana's moderation, then he's not all moderate, but something else as well. Perhaps something liberal. Why?

For one, the liberal Obama picked him. For another, his only memorable rulings, according to Lewis himself, were two anti-conservative ones. In one case, he sided with the ACLU on prayer, a ruling later overturned. Third, Hamilton clerked for a liberal judge. None of this necessarily proves Hamilton isn't moderate - only that Lewis's assertion is contradicted by factual evidence from his own story.

President Obama is expected to name his first candidate to an appeals court seat this week, officials said, choosing David F. Hamilton, a highly regarded federal trial court judge from

Indiana, for the appeals court in Chicago.

Judge Hamilton, who is said by lawyers to represent some of his state's traditionally moderate strain, served as counsel to Senator Evan Bayh when Mr. Bayh was the state's governor; he is also a nephew of former Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana.

A senior administration official said Judge Hamilton would have the support of both Mr. Bayh, a Democrat, and the state's other senator, Richard G. Lugar, a Republican. He will be nominated for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago.

The administration official said part of the reason for making the Hamilton nomination the administration's first public entry into the often contentious field of judicial selection was to serve "as a kind of signal" about the kind of nominees Mr. Obama will select. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination had not been officially made.

Lewis doesn't name any of the "lawyers" who vouched for Hamilton's moderate brand of judgeship.

Judge Hamilton was named to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994. As a trial judge largely bound to the rulings of higher courts, he has had few opportunities to demonstrate any ideological leanings.

He did receive attention for two rulings striking down actions of conservatives in the Indiana legislature. In 2005, he made news by ruling that the legislature was prohibited from beginning its sessions with overtly Christian prayers.

And the third clue Hamilton might not be moderate:

Judge Hamilton graduated from Yale Law School before serving as a law clerk to Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the Seventh Circuit, who is generally viewed as a liberal jurist.

Why is this important? Because the Times has traditionally emphasized the false "moderation" of Democratic Supreme Court appointees while insisting Republicans are appointing hard conservatives to the bench. The paper laughably insisted in a June 1993 headline that ultra-liberal Clinton appointee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former chief litigator for the Women's Rights Project of the ACLU, was a "Balanced Jurist at Home in the Middle." A July 2005 headline portrayed Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as "An Advocate for the Right."

So far, the Times looks to beprotecting the Obama administration in the same fashion.

UPDATE (2:56 PM): Wendy Long at National Review's Bench Memo's blog reports thatHamilton is"a hard-left political activist," a fundraiser for ACORN, and also "served as vice president for litigation and a board member of the Indiana ACLU." Some moderate!