ILNews

Commission interviews COA applicants

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Judicial Nominating Commission conducted its first round of interviews today for the Indiana Court of Appeals vacancy that will be created by Judge John T. Sharpnack's retirement in May 2008.

Fifteen people from Indiana's legal community applied for the appellate court seat.

Nine applicants sat before the commission this morning, including three trial judges, a senator, and the heads of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and Indiana Gaming Commission. Interviews started at 9 a.m. and ran until mid-afternoon, all conducted in a conference room down the hall from the Supreme Court's courtroom.

Commissioners asked typical questions, including about how the applicants thought their background would influence or complement their work on the court, what particular areas of law they might like to see addressed, and why they want to be on the court.

When Wayne Superior Judge P. Thomas Snow was interviewing, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said he was impressed with what people said about Judge Snow in how well he treats lawyers and litigants. Chief Justice Shepard said that was reassuring.

When Stephen J. Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, interviewed, Chief Justice Shepard said he was impressed with the connection Johnson has with the different branches of the government and the legal community.

Henry County Prosecutor Kit C. Dean Crane, William H. Mullis, and Morgan Superior Judge Christopher L. Burnham spent time in their interviews talking about their military experience.

Judge Burnham also spoke about his interest in technology and how he wants to continue his involvement with the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee.

The Nominating Commission asked the applicants about how to balance the quantity of cases and the substance of each case decision.

"Each case you look at a little differently on the appellate level - that's where experience kicks in. You have to know when the briefs cross your desk what's important ... it is important to make deliberative and quick decisions but not hasty decisions," Judge Burnham said.

Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure told the commission about three cases she felt were important and demonstrated her analytical skills. One dealt with home-schooled students who wanted to take one course at a local school. Another was a case involving golf carts being classified as motor vehicles, and the third - which she couldn't say much about because it's ongoing - involves former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jack Trudeau, who is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and aiding, inducing, or causing illegal possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor. All three cases present issues of first impression in Indiana.

Trial judges, prosecutors, and trial lawyers all want one of their own on the appellate court, according to one of the commissioners, who asked applicants what they thought about that sentiment and who they think is the best to serve on the court.

Judge McClure said, "You shouldn't be looking for someone to fit in one of those categories. You want a person who will work hard and loves the law, and will represent the masses."

The seven-member commission will likely choose a short list of applicants by this afternoon. Those selected will return for second interviews slated for Dec. 12. From there, three finalists' names will be given to Gov. Mitch Daniels to make the final decision.
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