Two trial judges and an appellate attorney have emerged as finalists for the Indiana Supreme Court, but one those three almost
didn’t make it to Indianapolis for the second interview on Friday.
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After nearly five hours of interviews and nearly two hours of deliberation, the seven-member Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission on Friday selected Boone Circuit Judge Steven David, Marion Superior Judge Robyn Moberly, and Indianapolis attorney Karl Mulvaney as finalists for the high court opening.
But Judge David almost didn’t make it to Indianapolis that day.
“I thought I’d be stuck on the side of the road when I was supposed to be sitting there in front of the commission,” Judge David told Indiana Lawyer today, laughing about his car trouble late last week that almost interfered with the appellate interview.
Getting behind the wheel that morning, the judge said he discovered a squirrel had eaten through some of the wiring and he ended up driving on four out of eight engine cylinders and with no air conditioning.
“A squirrel attempted to sabotage my bid,” he said. “Of all the worst possible days for car problems, it happens then. I barely made it down there, and barely made it back.”
He was the first interview, starting at 8:45 a.m. The remaining eight semi-finalists appeared for their 30-minute interviews throughout the day, before the commission members met privately at 3 p.m. to deliberate. After two hours of discussion, the members publicly announced their decision about 5 p.m.
Judge David got the news as he was standing in the auto repair shop, listening to the mechanic explain what had happened and what it would cost. He stepped away from the counter to take the news about his being chosen as a finalist for the state’s highest court.
“I’m simply honored and humbled, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was excited,” the judge said. “You have to be impressed with the process and the openness of it all.”
The other two finalists echoed those thoughts, with Mulvaney and Judge Moberly also expressing their excitement about the process overall and being selected as finalists. Judge Moberly talked about feeling very comfortable during her second interview, though it went by very quickly because of the “fun mix of commission members who are warm and engaging people.”
"I can't imagine ever being better," Judge Moberly said after receiving the news on Friday. “I'm thrilled and humbled to be one of the three finalists being sent to the governor.”
Now, it’s up to Gov. Mitch Daniels to decide who’ll be the next Indiana Supreme Court justice. Whoever is chosen will be the Republican governor’s first appointment to the state’s highest court, the first new justice since 1999, and he or she will succeed Justice Theodore R. Boehm once he retires from the bench Sept. 30.
Aside from the three finalists, those who made it past the first round of cuts were: Indianapolis attorney Ellen Boshkoff with Baker & Daniels; Indiana University associate general counsel Kipley Drew; Johnson Superior Judge Cynthia Emkes; Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher; Hamilton Superior Judge Steven Nation; and State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.
Each person began their interview with a congratulatory welcome from Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, who chairs the commission. He then asked each semi-finalist to address a two-part question sent out by the commission: "What do you consider your finest professional accomplishment or contribution?" and "Name two things that need improving in the Indiana court system that a justice might help solve."
All raised points about what they might tackle if they were a member of the court, and then responded to other questions posed by commission members – their views on approaching issues of first impression, how they might complement the current court makeup, what the judiciary’s three most pressing issues are, and how justices should factor in political, economic, and social ramifications in decision making.
A full rundown of the interviews by all nine semi-finalists can be found at Indiana Lawyer’s blog, First Impressions.
The governor’s general counsel, David Pippen, said the 60-day clock begins ticking once Daniels receives an official evaluation report on the three finalists from the nominating commission; that’s expected this week. Interviews will likely be scheduled “pretty quickly,” and there’s really no set procedure for how that interview process will happen. Whether one interview will take place or finalists will be invited back for a second informal interview hasn’t been determined, but it will be up to the governor to decide. Pippen said he doesn’t expect the governor will come close to running the 60-day deadline, but if Daniels doesn’t meet that deadline, the chief justice would make an appointment from the same list.