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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. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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