INDIANAPOLIS – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) announced that he will support the nomination of Winfield Denton Ong in order to address the pressing judicial emergency in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The White House announced Ong’s nomination earlier today, and it will now be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The Judicial Conference of the United States has declared a judicial emergency in Indiana’s Southern District, and this important role needs to be filled quickly,” said Coats. “The role demands a sharp legal mind and a thoughtful, fair temperament. After carefully reviewing Winfield Ong’s record and background and meeting with him personally, I believe he is qualified for this position.”
Winfield Denton Ong currently serves as the Criminal Chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Indiana. He was the lead trial counsel in the government’s case against Tim Durham, who was convicted of securities and wire fraud in 2012. Ong worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1989 to 1994 and returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1995 after working briefly for Anthem/Wellpoint’s Integrity Division. He is a 1980 graduate of DePauw University and a 1985 graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon.
In addition to nominating Ong, the White House also announced the nomination of Myra Selby for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Coats reiterated his call for the establishment of an Indiana Federal Nominating Commission to make recommendations on this and other judicial vacancies affecting the Hoosier state. Senator Coats originally called for the creation of a judicial selection commission last May.
“The citizens of Indiana will be best served by a nomination process that is taken completely out of politics,” said Coats. “We still have time to establish an equitable process for the remainder of this Congress. Myra Selby’s nomination should be considered by an Indiana Federal Nominating Commission.”
Judicial selection commissions have a long history in Indiana. On November 21, 1980, Indiana Senators Richard Lugar and Dan Quayle formed the “Indiana Merit Commission on Federal Judicial Appointments.” This commission recruited, interviewed, investigated and made final recommendations for federal appointments for over 20 years. At the state level, the seven member Judicial Nominating Commission currently recommends applicants to the Governor to fill vacancies on the Indiana Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Tax Court.
The following vacancies presently exist in Indiana: the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.