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5 make first cut for Court of Appeals vacancy

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A consumer protection official, a public defender, two judges and a law professor are semifinalists for a position on the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission on May 16 selected Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, of Indianapolis; Patricia Caress McMath, of Indianapolis; Madison Circuit Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III, of Anderson; Joel M. Schumm, of Indianapolis; and Marion Superior Judge Robert R. Altice Jr., of Indianapolis. The five were chosen from a field of 14 applicants vying to fill the vacancy that will be created when appellate Judge Carr Darden retires in July.

Each of the semifinalists will be interviewed a second time June 4 or 5. The commission then will select three finalists whose names will be sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels, who will make the appointment.

The commission, chaired by Chief Justice Brent Dickson, asked candidates what they most admired about the Court of Appeals and what qualities they would bring, if selected.  
 

kuzma-bigaillawlis-mug.jpg Kuzma

Kuzma, who leads the Office of the Indiana Attorney General’s consumer protection division, said she appreciated the court’s efforts to reach out to Hoosiers through its website, plain language jury instructions, and “appeals on wheels,” in which appellate panels travel the state for oral arguments.

Kuzma stressed her organizational leadership and prior charitable work as co-founder of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis. At the consumer protection division, she oversees a staff of about 100 people, including 35 attorneys, who focus on fraud prevention, foreclosure prevention and other consumer issues. “It’s very rewarding but also a very diverse experience of helping people,” she said. “I am a high-energy person.”


McMath McMath

McMath is one of three former Court of Appeals law clerks who made the cut. She handles appeals for the Marion County Public Defender Agency.

She said she admired the court for making “a written appeal in every case, so Hoosiers know” why the case was decided as it was. “It’s a remarkable thing considering that kind of caseload.”

McMath said her familiarity with appeals was a strong suit. “I have vast experience with appellate law,” she said, citing seven years as a clerk for two judges and 15 years as a public defender working exclusively in the appeals court.


Pyle Pyle

Pyle, a Madison Circuit judge, also clerked at the Court of Appeals for the man he hopes to succeed – Darden. He said he was impressed by the court’s emphasis on civility and recalled when writing as a law clerk being impressed by the respectful tone of dissents.

“I’m committed to that process,” Pyle said.

He stressed his diversity of experience that includes being an Indiana state trooper, deputy prosecutor, defense attorney, running a private practice, and being appointed and elected to the bench.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see the law on almost every level,” he said.


altice-robert-mug Altice

Altice, a longtime Marion Superior judge, said he knows the judges on the appeals court through his years on the bench.

“Probably the biggest skill I bring is experience,” he said, including trying more than 270 criminal cases, including 40 murder cases; and bringing more than 100 cases as a prosecutor.

“I try to build consensus wherever I can,” Altice said. “It’s just the nature of my personality.”

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor Joel Schumm is among those who have experience as an appeals court clerk. He stressed his academic background and said he admired “the way the Court of Appeals guarantees an absolute right to one appeal.”


Joel Schumm mug Schumm

Schumm said that he would bring a fitting work ethic to a court that generates more than 2,000 opinions per year.

Of his attributes, he said, “the biggest one is writing and analytical ability. … Writing excellent opinions.”

Other applicants were: Marion Superior Judge Cynthia J. Ayers, of Indianapolis; Jeffrey D. Wehmueller, of Fishers; Carol Nemeth Joven, of Indianapolis; Bryce D. Owens, of Pendleton; Brenda A. Roper, of Indianapolis; Rebecca A. Trent, of West Lafayette; Howard Superior Judge William C. Menges Jr., of Kokomo; Chris M. Teagle, of Albany; and Kari Evans Bennett, of Noblesville.•

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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