ISBA calls out the Gov

September 21, 2009
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The Indiana State Bar Association wants the governor to know it didn’t appreciate his comments regarding the Court of Appeals’ ruling on our voter ID law, so it issued a statement late Friday afternoon.

It’s short and to the (polite) point: Gov. Daniels and anyone else can disagree about the ruling, but making disparaging comments about individual judges isn’t the way to go.

Here’s a snippet of the release in case you haven’t seen it:

“While the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) recognizes that Gov. Daniels has championed the cause of judicial independence, the State Bar is nevertheless compelled to emphasize that comments such as those attributed to the governor are not helpful in advancing appropriate respect for the courts and the judicial process, and honoring the separation of powers doctrine.”

The governor said after the ruling it was an “act of judicial arrogance” and said he expected the ruling to be overturned because the authoring judge (Judge Patricia Riley) has been reversed before. He also claimed the ruling was transparently partisan.

His reaction to the ruling has been transparently partisan.

The majority of the Court of Appeals judges sitting on the bench right now were appointed by previous Democratic governors; that’s not to say all are Democrats. If someone he appointed made this decision or if it was made by a known-Republican, would Daniels still be crying foul?

For a governor who made me happy with his veto to a bill that would have made Court of Appeals judges run for election, I question how he can stick his nose into this judicial decision with these types of comments. It’s one thing to say you’re disappointed in the ruling and plan to appeal; it’s another to call out the authoring judge and say her decision will be a “footnote to history eventually.” Never mind the fact the decision was unanimous. Gov. Daniels hasn’t called out Judges Paul Mathias or James Kirsch that I’ve read or heard.

The controversy surrounding this ruling could be more fodder for politicians who want to elect appellate judges. It also shows that even with the appointment process (a committee selecting nominees for the governor to choose), politics inevitably will arise.

What’s your take on the ISBA’s statement or the governor’s comments? Should Gov. Daniels have kept his mouth shut or was it a breath of fresh air to hear a politician say exactly what’s on his mind?
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  • When judges get political, they can expect political criticism. Especially, when they legislate. As a forty year member of the Bar and of the ISBA, I resent the implication that
  • I find it interesting that anytime a judge hands down a decision that goes against the beliefs of the Republican party, Republicans quickly cry afoul and accuse the judge of legislating from the bench -- as if it\'s impossible that a judge could decide a case that goes against their beliefs without any political motive. Grow up!

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