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Editorial: Lake Co. merit selection is back on the table

April 27, 2011

It’s at the end of House Bill 1266, and we have no idea whether the legislation has a chance at passage by the April 29 session deadline, but we had to go back and read it twice before we believed what we were seeing:

“Provides for the four judges of the Lake superior court county division to be: (1) nominated by the Lake County superior court judicial nominating commission and appointed by the governor; and (2) subject to the question of retention or rejection by the Lake County electorate every six years. (Current law provides that the judges of the Lake superior court county division are elected by the electorate of Lake County every six years.) Repeals provisions concerning elected judges of the county division. Makes conforming amendments.”

To be sure, HB 1266 contains provisions of great importance to specific courts throughout the state, and it calls for the repeal of a mandatory retirement age for Superior Court judges.

But it’s there in black and white: an extension of merit selection in a county that already utilizes that method for some of its trial court judges. We had to go find our judicial merit-selection soap box and dust it off. We hadn’t thought we’d need it this session with all of the drama surrounding the walkouts, handwringing about social issues legislation, and the politicking going on at the Statehouse. We’re just like most of the citizens of the state hoping our elected officials pass a budget by the deadline so we don’t have to pay for a special session.

But count us among those who would love to see this little provision pass. You can read about the legislation in a story on page 3 of this issue of the newspaper.

We had to agree with Indiana State Bar Association President Jeff Lind when he said that he believes opposition to merit selection in some communities exists because in Indiana “Nobody likes to be told what to do.”

But expanding merit selection in this county that already has it for some judicial officers is a great place to start toward expanding it elsewhere.•

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