Judicial slating near death?

November 7, 2012
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With legal challenges and a new push from the Indianapolis Bar Association pending, is this a signal that the way judges in Marion County have been chosen since the 1970s is about to end?

In August, the Indianapolis Bar Association announced it will push to reform the judicial election and selection process in Marion County. Marion Superior judges are selected in a unique way – so unique that it’s believed to be the only process like it in the country.

Trying to explain the process to people not from Marion County can lead to puzzled looks. Through a slating process, the Republican and Democratic parties choose an equal amount of candidates from the respective parties to put on the primary ballot. Those who aren’t slated by a party can run against the slate, but they don’t have the weight of a political party backing them.

The way the system is set up, though, leads to the judges essentially winning once they make it through the primary election, because there are exactly the same number of judicial positions as candidates running from the two parties. You can pick up to 20 judges, according to the instructions on the ballot, and the ballot conveniently lists 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The only way one would lose in the general election is if the candidate didn’t get a single vote.

In an unsurprising result, all the candidates were re-elected Nov. 7.

A lawsuit filed Nov. 1 by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of Common Cause argues this setup doesn’t allow Marion County residents to “cast a meaningful vote” because the general election becomes a “mere formality.” The lawsuit seeks an injunction against enforcement of the law that spells out of how Marion Superior judges are elected.

The debate on slating has been going on for years. The process took hold in Marion County following the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. I’ve never understood how people can say the process is the right one for Marion County because the election is pretty much won during the primaries. Some people choose not to vote in the primaries because they don’t want to declare a political party in order to do so.

Those who run against the slate are at an obvious disadvantage since they don’t have the money or backing of their party. Five political candidates – including three from Marion Superior Court – filed a lawsuit in April claiming they were illegally denied access to public information in the Marion County Board of Voter Registration’s database.

There have been other lawsuits and inquiries into the slating process recently.

Does all this attention on the Marion County election process mean there is enough support to encourage legislators to change how judges take the bench in the county? What are the arguments for the current system and why should it be changed?

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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