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Despite constitutional concerns, judicial nomination bill advances

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Proposed changes to the panel that recommends judges for the Indiana Supreme Court and Court of Appeals advanced to the House floor Monday, but not before some lawmakers said they reserved judgment on whether the measure was constitutional.

Senate Bill 103 passed the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-3 vote. The bill would change how nonattorney members of the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission are appointed. The panel interviews Court of Appeals and Supreme Court candidates and prepares a list of three finalists from which the governor selects an appointee.

Currently, the governor appoints nonattorney members to the seven-member commission, whose members also constitute the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications that receives and investigates ethics complaints against judges.

The governor still would appoint nonattorney members under legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Brent Steele, R-Bedford, but a governor’s choice under SB 103 would be from a list recommended by the Senate president pro tem, the House speaker, and the House and Senate minority leaders.

Because Indiana’s merit-selection system for the judiciary is enshrined in Article 7 of the state Constitution, questions have arisen as to whether the commission may be altered by an act of the Legislature. Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, voted for the measure in committee but said he wanted to investigate its constitutionality before a floor vote. At least one other lawmaker who voted the bill out of committee did so with the same caveat.

Steele said the measure had been vetted by a prominent constitutional attorney who said the bill would not run afoul of the constitution. He said SB 103 would give the legislative branch a “thumb on the scale” as it pertains to Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, asked Steele whether there had been a problem with the commission members the governor had been picking. That wasn’t a factor, Steele said. “There’s always been a desire to let legislators have their say,” he said.

DeLaney, Reps. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, and Vernon Smith, D-Gary, voted against the bill.

Article 7, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution defines the duties and composition of the commission. Attorneys in each of the three Court of Appeals geographical districts elect three lawyer members, and the panel is chaired by the chief justice or his designee. The constitution says, “The Governor shall appoint to the commission three citizens, not admitted to the practice of law.”

Steele said he’s comfortable the bill doesn’t interfere with that language, even though he told Bauer that the bill would restrict the governor’s choice to four names recommended by Statehouse leaders.

A message seeking comment from the office of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was not immediately returned.

SB 103 also would reduce the time a governor has to fill a commission vacancy from 60 days to 30 days after receiving the list of recommended candidates.

 
 

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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