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7 interview for COA; 3 finalists to be chosen

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The Judicial Nominating Commission interviewed seven semi-finalists today for an opening on the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Now, the seven-member commission is deciding which three will be recommended to Gov. Mitch Daniels as finalists to succeed Judge John T. Sharpnack on the state's second highest appellate court.

Commission members conducted a second round of interviews with the seven semi-finalists, who were chosen in mid-November from an original 15 applicants.

Facing interviews today were: Dubois Superior Judge Elaine B. Brown, Morgan Superior Judge Jane Spencer Craney, Wayne Superior Judge P. Thomas Snow, Dearborn Superior Judge G. Michael Witte, Sen. Brent E. Steele of Bedford firm Steele & Steele, Leslie C. Shively of Shively & Associates in Evansville, and Stephen J. Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

Each focused their 20- to 30-minute interviews on what they consider their two finest career accomplishments and what two items most need improving at the court.

As far as proudest accomplishments, candidates' responses ranged from specific cases or projects they've handled to various relationships they've nurtured throughout their legal careers.

Judge Snow gave a humbling response after telling the commission about his work on the Judicial Administration Commission and developing the state's weighted caseload system in the 1990s.

"I don't mean to be flippant when I say this, but this is," he said about one of his finest accomplishments. "It's truly an honor to be among the seven highly qualified candidates, and it feels like I'm carrying the ball for the entire east side of the state."

Every candidate spoke about their interest in seeing a new, sixth judicial district added to the court to help keep up with growing caseloads, as well as a push for utilizing technology and e-filing, and making the appellate court more visible to Indiana residents.

One idea that some of the candidates touched on was the need for appellate mediation, specifically post-trial court judgment. Judge Brown mentioned the idea first, noting that it could be used in civil cases by delaying appeal filing by 45 days to get a 25 or 30 percent settlement rate, as seen in other states using the method.

In addition, Judge Brown also brought up several points that expanded on or added new points to what her fellow candidates mentioned. She suggested that appellate attorneys go through a certification process to make sure they have adequate experience and continuing legal education, as well as stationing some appellate judges in their respective judicial districts rather than Indianapolis to help the court's outreach.

Judge Craney noted that it could be time to revisit the court's policy on written opinions and whether more summary affirmations could be made.

At the end of his interview, Judge Witte described his one-time dream of being an Indiana High School Athletic Association referee and used a basketball analogy to describe how he would address competing parties' interests in appeals.

"One thing I learned is you don't care who wins, but by golly you make sure there's a level playing field," he said.

Only Steele and Shively came to the interviews as private practitioners currently representing clients, a point that commissioners focused on and at least one member pointed to as an important issue when considering finalists.

"We're looking at that hard and seriously," said commissioner Sherrill Colvin, an attorney from Fort Wayne.

Once the commission officially submits its recommendations, the governor has 60 days to make a decision. That person will replace Judge Sharpnack when he retires in May.

See the Indiana Lawyer Web site for updates.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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