Damon Leichty – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana

A South Bend based civil litigator, Damon Leichty will likely see a smooth confirmation given his relatively uncontroversial background.

Background

A native Hoosier, Leichty was born In Rensselear, Indiana in 1971.[1]  After getting an B.A. from Wabash College in 1994, Leichty received a Master of Letters from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and his J.D. from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 1999.  Following his graduation, Leichty joined the South Bend law office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, where he has stayed, other than a short clerkship with Judge Robert Miller on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.[2]

History of the Seat

Leichty has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.  This seat was vacated on January 11, 2015, when Judge Robert Miller, his old boss, moved to senior status.

In early 2017, Leichty submitted an application to fill the vacancy.[3]  While he interviewed with Republican Sen. Todd Young in April, he wasn’t selected as the primary candidate by the White House until April 2018 when he interviewed with Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.[4]  Leichty was officially nominated on July 17, 2018.

Legal Experience

Leichty has spent virtually his entire legal career at the firm of Barnes & Thornburg, where he worked as a litigator.  Through his career, Leichty has served as lead counsel in five trials, as well as associate counsel in two.[5]  One of his key trials involved successfully defending Interbake Foods, a subsidiary of Mrs. Fields, against a brand damage suit brought by the parent company.[6]

One of his most prominent cases involved the level of public scrutiny that should be imposed on private police departments.  ESPN filed suit against the University of Notre Dame, when the University police department refused to turn over reports under public records laws.[7]  Leichty represented the University, arguing, as an issue of first impression that the university police department draws its authority from trustees, not the state, and as such, is not subject to public records law.[8]  Leichty won the case before Judge Steven Hostetler, but the verdict was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which was itself overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court.[9]  In another unique case, Leichty defended TASER International against a products liability suit brought by a Massachusetts State Trooper, who suffered injuries by being tased during his training.[10]  Leichty was able to successfully obtain summary judgment by using admissions by the plaintiff’s expert during discovery.[11]

Overall Assessment

For the most part, the cooperation between Young and Donnelly on district court nominees has largely produced a team of relatively uncontroversial nominees.  Leichty is no different, with no partisan history, and a long record as a litigator.  With neither his experience nor his impartiality under serious question, it is likely that Leichty will join his old boss on the bench in the coming months.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Damon R. Leichty: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. at 32-33.

[4] See id.

[5] Id. at 17.

[6] The Mrs. Fields Brands, Inc. v. Interbake Foods LLC., C.A. No. 12201-CB (Del. Ch. 2016-18) (Bouchard, J. Andre).

[7] ESPN Inc. v. Univ. of Notre Dame Police Dept., 62 N.E.3d 1192 (Ind. 2016).

[8] Jeff Parrott, ESPN, ND Case in Court, South Bend Tribune, Apr. 2, 2015.

[9] ESPN Inc. v. Univ. of Notre Dame Police Dept., 62 N.E.3d 1192 (Ind. 2016).

[10] Foley v. TASER International, Inc., No. 4:09-CV-10155 (D. Mass. 2011).

[11] Id. 

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