Commission wraps up interviews, begins deliberations

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The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commissions has finished interviewing the semifinalists who want to replace Frank Sullivan Jr. on the Supreme Court. The commission went into executive session around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Below are summaries of the four interviews that took place Wednesday afternoon. All applicants were asked about what qualities a justice should possess.

Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis said the factors were most important in selecting a justice at this time: proven civility and collegiality, and breadth of experience.

“I think this is established by work on leadership committees,” Willis said of her experience. Willis said her legal experience, administrative experience and familiarity with technology would serve the court well. “I think having that background and how they will work together will be a complement.”

Willis said her private practice and experience on bench were of equal importance. “In any decision you're going to draw on that,” she said of her experiences.

Asked about whether she would interpret constitutional issues with a strict reading or holding the documents as living document, Willis would hold to the original writings, but said, “We are privileged to live in a democracy that has constitutions that are able to adapt as we go forward.”

Willis said diversity was important on the Supreme Court, but that could include life experience, personal background and legal experience. “I think different backgrounds will make discussions at the Supreme Court table more robust.”

In Henry County, Willis said the court system had embrace technology through the Odyssey system and other advances. “Technology is the one issue we're going to chase,” she said. “We may be small, but we're mighty.”

Technology is also the issue that she commented on when asked what could best improve the court.

John Young, partner with Young & Young Attorneys in Indianapolis, said the panel should most importantly look for diversity, but not just in terms of race or gender. He said it was important that someone have experience in a diverse array of legal practice.

“I think it's also important that somebody have a great deal of worldly experience,” he said, as well as someone who has leadership abilities. “Somebody who believes that talking to the people is just as important as somebody who talks to the powers that be.”

Dickson asked about whether interpretation of constitutional issues should be done strictly or through an evolving standard. “I would be inclined to try to determine what the founders and the drafters and the ratifiers of the Constitution meant,” Young said, giving deference to the meaning of terms at the time the document was adopted.

Young was asked about whether he's kept up with developments in criminal law after more than two decades away from that practice. He said he does through the traditional avenues of legal publications, advance sheets and websites.

Young said the Supreme Court could be improved by making sure Odyssey was available in all counties throughout the state, and that funding was the key. Where the legislature hasn't provided adequate money, he said, “It's a matter of carving out money from filing fees.”

Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation said experience was the major factor that must be considered for a Supreme Court justice. A judge who's managed cases and applied the law will have a deeper understanding of cases as a justice, he said. “The books do not tell you everything.”

“The other item I think you have to have is the ability to work with other people,” Nation said. That includes the ability to see where a judge's opinion is and how it fits in and can supplement the views of the other justices.

Dickson raised the issue of Nation's age. At 62, Nation is the oldest seminfinalist. “My devotion to duty and my devotion to people has never changed,” he said. He noted that the average tenure of Indiana justices has been nine years and he has 13 left to serve.

Asked whether he believed the law or the end result of a decision was most important, Nation said it was difficult for him to make a line distinction between the two, but he said it was important the there was consistency in the way the law was applied.

Nation also said he would interpret matters of constitutionality “as our original founders have given that document.” He said that's the contract on which citizen and lawmakers rely, and “If people want to change it, they have the right to amend it.”

Asked whether civil or criminal cases presented the greatest intellectual challenge, Nation didn't hesitate: civil. “In contracts case and in tort litigation, it's always been intriguing for me,” he said, citing it as a reason why he ran for the bench.

Nation also said the court could improve its communication with the public to make sure people understand what's going on in the court.

Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush said humility was an important factory that could lead to judicial restraint. Character also is important. Commission member William Winingham noted that Rush was the lone semifinalist who mentioned humility as an important attribute.

Rush also said a broad and deep basis of professional and life experience was important, as was collegiality and consensus building. She recalled her grandmother’s advice that “ ... a little sugar goes a long way,” and that collegiality “helps us to build on the unbelievable foundation we have in the Supreme Court.”

The experience as a juvenile court judge has been challenging, Rush said, noting that those cases call on multiple disciplines.

Empathy is important in demeanor but not in decisions. “I want everyone to walk out of the courtroom feeling they were heard,” Rush said.

Rush said she would soon be working with a legislative study committee on the Department of Child Services and that it was important to be involved with such efforts. “All that work flows down to the work we do with parents and children,” she said.

Rush also noted, “I always like the Supreme Court decisions where they send a little red flag out to the General Assembly” about an area where legislative clarification might be needed. “I think working with that branch yields so many results.”

Asked about areas where the Supreme Court could improve, Rush said finding equitable and stable funding for the local trial courts was paramount. “We talk like we've never talked before” about funding issues, Rush noted, adding that courts in Kentucky are closing one day per week to save money. She said local trial court funding was an issue of access to justice.



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  1. Mr Smith, while most reading these posts are too busy making money or cranking out what passes for justice in our legal-techocrat order,I have often attempted to resist your cynicism, well thought out cynicism I admit. Please know that I give up, I can resist your logic no more. From Locknarian Platonic Guardians, through the incorporation doctine, to substantive due process, to Roe, to the latest demands that all states redefine the foundational stone of all civilized social order, the history of America's fall from Grace is inscribed on the dockets of the judiciary. From the federal judges' apostasy of a kind that would have caused John Jay to recommend capital punishment, to the state judges' refusal to protect the sanctuary of the state constitutions, seeing in them merely a font from which to protect pornographers, those who scream "f*ck the police" and pemubras and emanations following the federal apostates, it has been the judiciary, by and large, that has brought the Experiment in Ordered Liberty to an end. The Founders had great and high hopes that they had designed the third branch to save the Republic from such a time as this ... rather the third branch has allowed itself to be used to drag the Republic into rat infested sewers from which no nation has ever returned. Save me from tomorrow:

  2. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  3. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  4. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  5. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied