WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated an Indianapolis attorney and retired Marine colonel with experience litigating intellectual property and national security cases to fill a seat in the short-staffed Southern Indiana federal court.
If confirmed, Sweeney would fill a seat left vacant by Judge Sarah Evans Barker, who retired in 2014.
Sweeney has practiced in multiple areas of law, including defense trade controls, trade regulations, and internet and e-commerce, according to his biographical page on the Barnes & Thornburg website. He has been with the firm for 18 years, the White House said in a news release.
He has no apparent connection to the Federalist Society, the conservative organization that has had a hand in picking several of Trump’s nominees, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Before attending law school at Notre Dame, Sweeney took a commission in the Marine Corps and retired as a colonel after 11 years of active duty and then reserve duty, the White House said.
Before joining the Indianapolis firm, Sweeney clerked for Sixth Circuit Judge James L. Ryan and Judge John Tinder in Southern Indiana federal court. Both judges, now retired, were President Ronald Reagan appointees.
Sweeney is the immediate-past national president of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, the White House said. He provided legal and technical advice to the Marine Corps in a wrongful death case that arose after a low-flying Marine EA-6B jet collided with gondola cables in Cavalese, Italy, according to his law firm bio.
The 1998 disaster stoked controversy and caused anger and consternation among Italians. Marine Corps pilots broke regulations by flying low during a training flight close to a ski resort, cutting the lift cable and severing a cable car. It plummeted 260 feet to the ground, killing 20 people.
A military jury cleared Capt. Richard Ashby and navigator Capt. Joseph Schweitzer of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide charges, causing outrage in Italy.
They were later found guilty of obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming an officer after it emerged that they had taken videotape evidence from a camera Schweitzer had used on the flight and destroyed it. The pilots were dismissed from the Marine Corps and Ashby was sentenced to six months in prison.
There are currently 64 judicial emergencies in the federal courts. The U.S. court system defines a judicial emergency as any vacancy with a caseload of more than 600 filings per judge; in a court where there has been a vacancy open for more than a year and a half and weighted filings are between 430 to 600 for each judge; or a court with only one active judge.
In a prepared statement, Vice President Mike Pence called on the Senate to move quickly to confirm Sweeney’s nomination as well as 50 other pending judicial nominees.
“By nominating outstanding candidates like Jim Sweeney and former Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Coney Barrett — who was confirmed to an Indiana seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit yesterday — the President is delivering on his promise to nominate outstanding judges. The American people deserve to have these judges quickly confirmed,” Pence said.
Neither the White House nor Sweeney immediately responded Wednesday to requests for comment.