Judicial slating near death?

November 7, 2012
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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?



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.