Judge Barker Moves Into ‘Senior Status,’ Takes On Fewer Cases

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April 1, 2014 —

INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker announced Monday that she will ease off her role as a full-time judge and move into senior status with a somewhat lighter caseload.

Barker, 70, notified President Barack Obama of her intentions to change her role starting June 30.

“At heart, the things that drew me to this work initially remain the things that continue to attract and deserve my interest, my time, and my devotion: The opportunity to make a difference in the quality of justice in our state and in the lives of my fellow citizens,” Barker said in a statement about her decision.

Barker – a Mishawaka native who joined the court 30 years ago Monday – was the first woman to serve on the federal bench in Indiana and has presided over some of the region’s and even the nation’s more controversial cases.

She ruled in 2000 that federal authorities could seize the Indianapolis Baptist Temple’s building and other assets after the congregation failed to withhold taxes from employee paychecks. The members staged a sit-in in protest, leading federal marshals to carry them out and takeover the building.

Between 2000 and 2008, Barker supervised more than 800 consolidated lawsuits concerning problems with Bridgestone/Firestone tires installed on Ford Explorer vehicles.

In 2013, she struck down multiple parts of Indiana’s immigration law.

Barker also served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern Indiana district from 1981 to 1984, during which time she prosecuted former Senate President Pro Tem Phillip Gutman on charges of extorting money.

Barker plans to continue to carry a full caseload until Obama appoints a successor. That’s expected to happen with guidance from U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Dan Coats, R-Ind.

Once a new judge is appointed, Barker plans to cut her caseload to 80 percent of a full-time jurist.

During her 30-year term, Barker served as chief judge from 1994-2001 and worked on a number of judicial branch committees.

Southern District Chief Judge Richard Young called Barker a “trailblazer.”

“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,” Young said. “We are very grateful for her continued service to the court and the citizens of the Southern District of Indiana.” is a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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