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After 30 years, Judge Barker to dial back caseload

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After 30 years on the federal bench, Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has announced her intention to take senior status effective June 30.

“It has been and continues to be an extraordinary privilege to serve as a federal judge in our Southern District,” Barker said. “I have been the beneficiary of valuable, selfless guidance and support from many wonderful, highly talented colleagues, law clerks, court staff and lawyers, and most of all from my beloved husband, Ken, and our family.”

Barker was born in Mishawaka in 1943 and earned her law degree from the American University School of Law in Washington, D.C. She was appointed to the federal bench in March 31, 1984, by President Ronald Reagan with the support of Indiana Sens. Richard Lugar and Dan Quayle. She was the first woman appointed to the federal court in Indiana, filling the vacancy created by the death of Cale J. Holder.

During her tenure, Barker has held numerous appointments including serving as chief judge from 1994 to 2001, serving on the Judicial Conference of the United States and being appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist to the Special Study Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, known as the Breyer Committee.

Also, from 2007 to 2009, she served a two-year term as president of the 900-plus member Federal Judges Association, composed of Article III judges from across the country.

Chief Judge Richard L. Young remarked on behalf of the Court, “Judge Barker has long been a trailblazer in the legal community, from her initial appointment as the first woman Assistant United States Attorney, followed by becoming the first woman Federal Judge in Indiana, continuing to her current role as a member of the Court. In her thirty years as a district judge, she has bridged two judicial generations and provided valuable leadership and guidance to the bench and bar. We are very grateful for her continued service to the Court and the citizens of the Southern District of Indiana.”

"Senior" status is a form of semi-retirement for federal judges who continue to devote time to managing a caseload.

Judge Barker will continue to carry a full caseload until a successor is appointed by President Barack Obama with the guidance of Indiana Sens. Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats. When her successor is appointed, Barker expects to cut back her caseload to 80 percent of a full draw.

IBJ's video feature "Leading Questions" presented a four-part interview with Barker in 2011.

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