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Justices block Schiralli’s Lake County bench transfer

May 17, 2013

The Indiana Supreme Court blocked the transfer of a judge who sought to replace former Lake Superior Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura after her appointment to head the Department of Child Services.

The justices unanimously held that Lake County’s merit-selection system prohibits Lake Superior Civil Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli from transferring to the juvenile division without going through merit selection first. Schiralli was appointed to the Lake County bench when a new court was created, but without first going through merit selection. His fellow judges in Lake County approved his transfer in February. Magistrates sued, claiming they were deprived a judgeship opportunity through the county’s merit-selection process.

“Indiana Code section 33-33-45-21(e) (The Lake County merit-selection statute) prevents the Judges from reassigning, transferring, or rotating Judge Schiralli from the County Division to the Juvenile Division. However, this prohibition does not preclude him from applying to be appointed, under the merit-selection process in Indiana Code section 33-33-45-38, to fill a vacancy in the other divisions of the court,” justices wrote in a  per curiam opinion.

Lake County magistrates had sought to permanently bar judges from transfer without first going through a merit-selection process, but the court denied that motion in State of Indiana ex rel. Glenn D. Commons, et al. v. The Hon. John R. Pera, et al., 45S00-1303-OR-209.

“The Court denies the Magistrates’ request for a permanent writ that would more broadly prohibit any current Judge from being transferred or reassigned to the Juvenile Division,” the court ruled. “This opinion is final. No petitions for rehearing or motions to reconsider shall be filed.”

The court also dismissed the judges’ argument that the county’s merit-selection statute was unconstitutional and held that local court rules may not contravene the statute.

Read previous IL coverage of the Lake County bench dispute.

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