OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The U.S. Senate approved Judge Gretchen Lund to serve in the Northern District of Indiana by a vote of 87-6.
Judge Lund has been a member of the Elkhart County Superior Court in Goshen, Indiana, since 2015. Before her current position, she served as a deputy judge at the Goshen City Court and as a deputy prosecutor at the Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. According to her White House biography, she started her career as a clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge William T. Lawrence on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and later worked as an associate for Ice Miller LLP.
The Senate approved the appointment of Judge Cristal C. Brisco to this court. Judge Brisco previously served on the St. Joseph County Superior Court in South Bend, Indiana.
“I’ve recommended many fellow Hoosiers to this committee over the years, but until today I had not had the pleasure of recommending judges from our state superior courts,” Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said upon introducing Judges Lund and Brisco at their Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in December. “The judges in our state courts work incredibly hard daily to administer justice in our local communities. I’m grateful for every one of them.”
In her nomination questionnaire, Judge Lund stated that Elkhart County, similar to other counties nationwide, is grappling with a persistent epidemic of substance abuse. As a judge, she witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of drug and alcohol abuse on the community.
Judge Lund wrote that in 2017, she assembled a team consisting of prosecutors, public defenders, officials from the Office of Court Services, and providers of mental health and substance abuse services. The purpose of this collaboration was to establish the “first problem-solving court in Elkhart County.”
“The court transfers nonviolent individuals with chemical addiction issues from the conventional criminal justice system to a therapeutic court environment. In this setting, they undergo court-mandated treatment, drug testing, and court supervision,” she elaborated. The program has a minimum duration of 18 months. If the participants are successful, they will receive dismissals or reductions for their felony charges.
Judge Lund additionally supervises the Elkhart County Pre-Trial Release Program, which, at the time of completing her questionnaire, was providing services to approximately 450 individuals.
Republicans have been sounding the alarm over President Joe Biden’s obvious goal of appointing judges based on diversity.
A study found that roughly 84% of the judges appointed by President Donald Trump were white and 76% were male.
“Biden is making a major departure from tradition by picking an unprecedented number of public defenders for his nominees. Through October 2023, 42 of his nominations were former public defenders, and 31 confirmations were former public defenders, out of 179 nominations for the district and circuit courts and Supreme Court, according to the Alliance for Justice. As for his overall record on judicial appointments, through Oct. 10, 2023, Biden got 36 circuits and 108 district court judges confirmed, compared to 43 and 105, respectively, at this point in the Trump administration, according to the Federal Judicial Center,” Law360 reported.
“Of the judges confirmed under Biden, 66.21% have been women and 66.9% have been non-white, as of Oct. 10, 2023, according to the American Constitution Society, which is seen as the liberal counterpart to the Federalist Society. There have also been many historic firsts for gender and racial diversity on the various district and appellate courts,” the outlet added.
According to Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and an expert in federal courts, Biden’s nominees have generally displayed a progressive inclination. However, it is premature to definitively ascertain their ideologies while serving as judges.
Elliot Slotnick, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University, says Biden’s nominees are expected to lean further towards the left end of the political spectrum compared to not only the “ultra-conservative Trump nominees.”
Biden has also appointed one Supreme Court justice thus far: Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to be a member of the high court.