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. 

Holly Brady – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana

A prominent labor and employment attorney from Fort Wayne, Holly Brady is an unusual nominee for the federal bench, given her frequent representation of plaintiffs and victims of discrimination.

Background

A native Hoosier, Brady was born Holly Ann Winkeljohn in Fort Wayne on August 14, 1969.[1]  After getting an B.A. from Indiana University in 1991, Brady attended Valparaiso University School of Law, graduating in 1994.  Following her graduation, Brady joined the Fort Wayne law firm Gallucci Hopkins & Theisin P.C. which later merged into Barnes & Thornburg LLP.  In 2002, she moved to the firm Theisen Bowers & Brady LLC as a Member.[2]

In 2007, Brady joined Haller & Colvin P.C. as a Member.  She has served as President at the firm from 2012 to 2018.[3]

History of the Seat

Brady has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.  This seat was vacated on September 29, 2017, when Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen moved to senior status.

Brady was approached by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) for the seat in early June 2017.[4]  While she interviewed with Young in July, she wasn’t selected as the primary candidate by the White House until December 2017.[5]  Brady interviewed with Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and his staff early in 2018 and was nominated on April 10, 2018.[6]

Legal Experience

Brady began her legal career as an Associate at Gallucci, Hopkins & Theisen, which later merged into Barnes & Thornburg.  While there, Brady primarily represented employees in discrimination and wrongful termination cases.  During her time there, Brady represented Monte Sieberns, who was blind, in a discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, who declined to hire him.[7]   Brady argued that Wal-Mart discriminated by failing to hire Sieberns as a telephone operator, while Wal-Mart countered that their phone system could not have been operated by Sieberns.[8]  Brady ultimately lost the argument before Judge William Lee at the trial level and the Seventh Circuit.[9]  In another unique case, Brady represented the Estate of a police officer who was shot and killed by a fugitive.[10]  Brady and her fellow attorneys sued the fugitive’s parents for negligent storage of the firearm, permitting the fugitive to access and use it, successfully persuading the Indiana Supreme Court to recognize a statutory duty of care by firearm owners to store their weapons appropriately.[11]

In 2002, Brady joined Theisen Bowers & Brady, a boutique employment law firm.  At the firm, she represented current and former employees in a labor and breach of contract suit against DaimlerChrysler.[12]

In 2007, Brady moved to the Haller & Colvin, where she currently serves.  While she continued her work on labor and employment issues, she also handled other civil litigation.  Notably, Brady represented members of the House Democratic Caucus challenging the collection of fines imposed upon them by the Republican majority.[13]  The suit arose from two incidents in 2011 and 2012, when Indiana State House Democrats fled the state to prevent a legislative quorum and block anti-union legislation.[14]  In response, Republican Speaker Brian Bosma imposed fines on the absent lawmakers, and Democratic lawmakers, represented by Brady, challenged the collection of the fines by garnishing their wages.[15]  The Indiana Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the suit in a 3-2 decision, finding that courts had no jurisdiction over the issue.[16]

Overall Assessment

Generally speaking, regardless of the administration, attorneys practicing civil defense are more likely to become federal judges than those primarily representing plaintiffs.  As such, the nomination of Brady, who has primarily represented plaintiffs, is refreshingly different.  While Brady is a Republican,[17] her representation of Democrats, labor plaintiffs, and the victims of discrimination is likely to deem her a consensus nominee.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Holly A. Brady: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 25-26.

[5] Id. at 26.

[6] See id.

[7] Sieberns v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 946 F. Supp. 664 (N.D. Ind. 1996).

[8] See id. at

[9] Sieberns v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 125 F.3d 1019 (7th Cir. 1997).

[10] Estate of Eryn T. Heck v. Stoffer, 786 N.E.2d 265 (Ind. 2003).

[11] Id. at 269.

[12] Bell v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 547 F.3d 796 (7th Cir. 2008).

[13] See Berry v. Crawford, 990 N.E.2d 410 (Ind. 2013).

[14] Frank James, Indiana Democratic Lawmakers Imitate Wisconsin, Flee State, NPR, Feb.. 22, 2011, https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2011/02/22/133966237/indiana-democratic-lawmakers-imitate-wisconsin-flee-state.

[15] See Berry, supra n. 13 at 413.

[16] Id. at 422.

[17] See Brian Francisco, City Lawyer Picked for Federal Post, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Apr. 11, 2018, http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/20180411/city-lawyer-picked-for-federal-post (citing Mark Gia-Quinta).