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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. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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