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Candidates answer questions about qualifications to be justice

July 17, 2012

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission began interviews with 22 candidates vying to replace retiring Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. The interviews are taking place Tuesday and Wednesday, and the commission will narrow the list Wednesday to those who will be interviewed a second time in August.

Candidates each were asked an opening question by commission chairman, Chief Justice Brent Dickson: What would you enjoy most, and least about serving on the Supreme Court, and what are your qualifications? Following are excerpts of Tuesday's interviews:

Thomas M. Fisher, 43, solicitor general in the office of the attorney general, said he would most enjoy the intellectual engagement and collegial atmosphere among justices in deliberating cases and writing opinions. “That, to me, is the most critical feature of being a court of last resort.” He would enjoy participating in a body in which “issues were considered circumspectly.”

Fisher would least like presiding in judicial and attorney discipline matters, saying such matters were “distasteful.”

A challenge for the courts and attorneys in the future will be the way in which briefs are written and filed, and Fisher said some consideration will have to be made for the “growing number of judges who are reading briefs not just on a computer screen, but on their iPads.”

Dickson noted Fisher's membership in the Federalist Society and asked how that might affect his view from the bench.

“I don't have any agendas,” he said. “I think courts are designed to be incremental, and the legislature is designed to make big policy decisions.”

“I think a judge should put aside those personal philosophical preferences and religious preferences,” he said.

Alicia A. Gooden, 41, family law mediator with the Mediation Group LLP, Indianapolis said the involvement in the decision-making process with fellow justices would be the aspect she would most enjoy if appointed to the court.

Helping justices arrive at and author opinions would be “the most intriguing” aspect of serving on the court, Gooden said. She stressed her ability to create and nurture partnerships with community-based partners in and out of the legal community as an asset. She said she's educated students from kindergarten through law school about the profession and welcomed the opportunity to continue representing and promoting the image of the profession.

Gooden said the potential of “being an ambassador for the court and this state is just hugely invigorating.”

Her least favorite responsibility of serving as a justice would be handling attorney and judicial discipline cases. “Quite frankly, that would make me sad,” Gooden said, adding, “it's a critical part of this work.

Gooden said she also has assisted CLEO fellows who've served with her as bailiffs, clerks and shadowing her work as a mediator. “Anything that can improve those mentoring opportunities for younger lawyers or less experienced lawyers does nothing but provide a better public outlook” for the profession.

Karen R. Orr, 48, attorney with Stuart & Branigin LLP, Lafayette, said “the core function of decision-making and drafting opinions are something I very much enjoy doing,” likening the work to working a puzzle.

She said not having been inside the Supreme Court, it would be difficult to determine what she would like least about serving, noting that the justices have multiple demands on their time. But she suspected she would least enjoy overseeing attorney and judge disciplinary actions.

Dickson asked Orr, who lives in Monticello, if she would move to Indianapolis if appointed, and she said she would. Orr also discussed her experience in law around the state, from private practice in her hometown of Covington to experience in Hamilton County, Tippecanoe County and elsewhere. “I've enjoyed the good fortune of being able to work in many environments,” she said.

Orr, the third candidate and second woman interviewed, was the first to field a question about whether a woman should be appointed to the position. “Would a woman's view be helpful? I think it would,” Orr said, noting the court has always benefited from diversity.

 

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