Will the governor appoint a female justice?

August 9, 2012
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When the application process began for those interesting in being the next Indiana justice, women dominated the applicant pool. Now, Gov. Mitch Daniels has just a 33 percent chance of appointing a woman to the Indiana Supreme Court.

For those who want to see a female justice, the best case scenario would have been for the nominating commission to send three women’s names to the governor. I expected to see two women listed as finalists, so I was surprised to see only one woman make the final cut. Hamilton Superior Judge Steven Nation, Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush, or Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP attorney Geoffrey Slaughter will be an Indiana justice before year’s end.

I was unable to sit in on the interviews this time, so my reaction is based only on what my co-worker relayed to me about the interviews, what I’ve read, and my limited knowledge of all the candidates going into the interviews. It appears that Rush was the only woman who the Judicial Nominating Commission felt ranked among the top three in their qualifications to be a justice. A glance at the original applicant names and the semifinalist list showed several other women who appeared on paper to be possible contenders.

This blog is not to dismiss or discredit the qualifications of the men who applied and have made it to the list of finalists. It is to address the pink elephant in the room.

Twenty-two people applied to replace Frank Sullivan Jr. on the court; 16 of the original applicants were women. Even when the 10 semifinalists were named, there were more women than men who made the cut. But none of that matters now; what matters are the three names the governor will select from.

Daniels is facing heat from some to appoint a woman. Many thought when Theodore Boehm stepped down in 2009, that appointment would be a woman. Then again with Randall Shepard earlier this year, the thoughts were he has to appoint a woman this time. We’re one of just three states that does not have a female on our Supreme Court right now.

I agree with the responses of several of the applicants during their interviews Wednesday that diversity on the court doesn’t just mean gender or ethnicity. We want people to have diverse work experiences and life experiences. I’d argue you’d get that from appointing a woman.

This appointment is likely Daniels’ last chance to appoint a woman to the “dream team” of justices he referenced during Chief Justice Brent Dickson’s official oath ceremony this week. Our former “dream team” consisted of five well-qualified, respected and collegial men: Boehm, Dickson, Robert Rucker, Shepard and Sullivan. Might the governor add a well-qualified, respected, collegial woman so the new “dream team” is Dickson, Rucker, David, Massa and Rush? There’s a 33 percent chance it will happen.
 

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