Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wants to move quickly on appointing the state’s next Indiana Supreme Court justice. He has already met with the three finalists who are vying for that position.
The Judicial Nominating Commission on Feb. 22 interviewed seven semi-finalists and selected Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Director Mark Massa and Indiana Judicial Center Director Jane Seigel as finalists. One will be chosen to succeed Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, who is retiring March 23.
On Wednesday, the chief justice sent a six-page letter to the governor detailing the commission’s selection of finalists and each person’s background and experience. The letter concludes by saying each nominee is someone of “such high caliber that they would be a lasting credit to the state’s high court.”
The letter is a typical procedural step, one that officially starts the clock on the governor’s 60-day timetable to make a decision.
Daniels told reporters Friday morning that he talked with each of the finalists. He plans to make a decision “way ahead of the deadline” and is moving quickly, but wants to make sure he is being thoughtful about the process. When asked about the court’s gender diversity, Daniels said the importance of choosing a woman is a factor but one that doesn’t trump other factors such as merit and judicial philosophy.
“I would love nothing more, in this context and many more for that matter, to appoint women, and minorities likewise,” Daniels said. “But it’s a tie-breaker. In the case of a job this important, it comes down below the qualities that I mentioned. We’ve got to have the best qualified judge, one with the best temperament, and I want to see someone who will respect the separations of power and boundaries of judicial decision-making.”
Shepard’s term as chief justice expires on Sunday. From then until his retirement, he will have the title of acting chief justice. After Shepard’s retirement, Justice Brent Dickson, the justice who will then have the most seniority, will take over as acting chief until the Judicial Nominating Commission chooses a successor following Daniels’ appointment.