Video: Obama: 'How a Justice approaches their job can tell you a lot'

updated 3/17/2009 11:38:38 AM ET 2009-03-17T15:38:38

President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated U.S. District Judge David Hamilton, a moderate, to serve on a midwestern federal appeals court as the administration begins to remake the federal judiciary.

The White House said Hamilton, from Indiana, will serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covering his state, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Hamilton has issued controversial rulings on abortion and prayer, but was reversed by the appellate court where he will serve if confirmed.

In 2005, he banned the Indiana House of Representatives' practice of opening the chamber's business with sectarian prayers. Hamilton, the son of a United Methodist minister, ruled that prayers mentioning Jesus Christ or using terms such as savior amounted to state endorsement of a religion. The circuit court later overturned the ruling.

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In 2003, he struck down part of an Indiana law requiring abortion clinics to give women information about alternatives to abortion in the presence of a physician or nurse 18 hours before the procedure. The 7th Circuit court also reversed that decision.

Hamilton, based in Indianapolis, served as counsel to Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh when he was governor.

Former President Bill Clinton appointed Hamilton to the federal bench in 1994.

There are 11 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals that cover specific regions, and the circuit for the District of Columbia. There currently are 15 vacancies, including the seat to be filled by Hamilton.

Since most cases do not reach the U.S. Supreme Court, federal appellate decisions often are the final word on legal matters that affect millions of Americans — from civil liberties and civil rights, to abortion and challenges to government actions.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the state's senior senator, supports Hamilton, according to Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher.

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