Tanya Walton Pratt

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Tanya Walton Pratt
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Court Information:
United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #3
Appointed by:   Pres. Barack Obama
Approval vote:   95-0
Active:   6/15/2010-Present
Preceded by:   David Hamilton
Personal History
Born:   1959
Hometown:   Indianapolis, IN
Undergraduate:   Spelman College, 1981
Law School:   Howard University School of Law, 1984

Tanya Walton Pratt is a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She was nominated to the court by President President Obama on January 20, 2010, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 15, 2013.[1] Pratt is the first black judge of the Southern District of Indiana.[2]


Pratt graduated from Spelman College in 1981 with her bachelor's degree and earned her J.D. in 1984 from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.[2]

Professional career

  • 2009-2010: Probate division
  • 1997-2008: Criminal division

Judicial career

Southern District of Indiana

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Tanya Walton Pratt
 Court:Southern District of Indiana
 Progress:Confirmed 146 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:January 20, 2010
ApprovedAABA Rating:Substantial Majority Well Qualified, Minority Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:February 11, 2010
ApprovedAReported:March 4, 2010 
ApprovedAConfirmed:June 15, 2010
 Vote: 95-0

On January 18, 2010, Pratt was nominated for a federal judgeship for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She was recommended for the court by Senator Evan Bayh. The seat was vacated when Judge David Hamilton was elevated to the Seventh Circuit.[2][4][5][6] Pratt received a substantial majority rating of Well Qualified and a minority rating of Qualified from the American Bar Association.[7]


On June 15, 2010, Pratt was confirmed 95-0 by the Senate and received her commission the same day.[8]

Awards and associations

  • 2001-2007: Chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Commission in Indiana
  • Member of the Marion Superior Court Executive Committee
  • Member of the House of Delegates for the Indiana Bar Association[4]

Notable cases

Vanished student’s parents unable to sue her friends (2014)

The parents of missing college student Lauren Spierer are unable to sue the friends she was with the night she vanished. Robert and Charlene Spierer, parents of Lauren, sued Jay Rosenbaum and Corey Rossman, claiming that the two men were negligent in providing their under-aged daughter with alcohol and then not ensuring she returned home safely.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt expressed sympathy for the Spierers but dismissed their case, granting Rosenbaum and Rossman’s motion for summary judgment. Judge Pratt stated that the Spierers complaint contained little more than scant allegations lacking evidence upon which to rely. She also stated that a jury would have to make assumptions instead of relying on facts about what happened to Lauren in order to reach a verdict.

Lauren Spierer was last seen in June 2011.


Planned Parenthood case and women's rights in Indiana (2012-2013)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Inc., v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, et al., 1:11-cv-630-TWP-TAB)

In June of 2011, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted a preliminary injunction against the state of Indiana from enforcing a law that prohobiting Planned Parenthood from receiving funding from medicaid recipients. The law would also require doctors to "notify women seeking abortions that the fetus can feel pain."[9] The ruling, which was only a temporary injunction and did not overturn the law permanently, was based on the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which felt that the new Indiana law was contrary to federal law. The notification requirements were blocked as a violation of the doctors' individual right to free speech under the First Amendment. The state appealed the injunction to the Seventh Circuit. On October 23, 2012, the Seventh Circuit affirmed Walton's decision.[9][10] The injunction was made permanent on July 30, 2013.[11]

Judge rules Indiana prisons' treatment of mentally ill cruel and unusual punishment (2012)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission v. Indiana Dept. of Correction, No. 08-01317)

Judge Pratt ruled against the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) in regards to the state's treatment of mentally ill inmates.[12] IDOC used solitary confinement in cases of mentally ill inmates, confining them to their cells for between 23 and 24 hours per day. This was a standard practice in the case of any inmate deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, regardless of mental state.[13][14] In her ruling, Judge Pratt found this practice to constitute cruel and unusual punishment in the case of mentally ill inmates, as they do not receive the minimally acceptable level of care in solitary confinement. Pratt also noted that such confinement often leads to an exacerbation of the mental illness, sometimes resulting in worsening conditions, more violent outbursts, or increased suicide attempts.[12] Perhaps most notably, Pratt's ruling called the practices of IDOC "deliberately indifferent," noting that the department was aware of the issues with their care of the mentally ill but did little or nothing to correct the problem.

See also

External links


Political offices
Preceded by:
David Hamilton
Southern District of Indiana
Seat #3
Succeeded by:

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