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IBA: Board Approves Judicial Reform Resolutions

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The Indianapolis Bar Association Board of Directors approved two resolutions related to the judicial system in Indiana at its July meeting on Friday, July 13.

The first resolution amended the purpose of the IndyBar’s Attorneys for an Impartial Bench (AIB) Standing Committee, which was converted to a standing committee from its status as a political action committee by a previous action during the board meeting.

AIB was created by a Board Resolution passed in 2010 in response to concerns raised by the U.S. Supreme Court Caperton decision addressing the issue of judicial campaigns and the appearance of impropriety that may arise as a result of attorney contributions. The stated purpose of AIB at that time was to receive and distribute voluntary contributions to judicial candidates for the Marion Circuit and Superior Courts, providing IndyBar members with an alternate method of supporting judicial campaigns.

Based on meetings conducted and input solicited from other interested parties, AIB Officers and its Executive Committee determined that the usefulness of AIB was much broader than the purpose approved at the time of its creation. Thus, it was recommended to the Board of Directors that AIB’s purpose be amended to include the broader goal of using AIB as a mechanism to truly achieve Attorneys for an Independent Bench by all manners approved by the IndyBar Board of Directors. This resolution was unanimously approved by the board. As a result of the amended purpose, AIB will no longer collect or distribute contributions.

The second resolution approved by the Board of Directors solidified the bar’s support of judicial elections issues reform, authorizing the President or selected designees to continue to advocate for needed reform to the Marion County judicial election and selection process.

The process by which the judiciary in Marion County is presently selected and/or elected has been the subject of ongoing criticism and controversy and has been studied by the IndyBar on several occasions. Historically, the IndyBar passed a Resolution on Merit Selection in 2005, authorizing a task force to facilitate a merit selection bill in the Indiana legislature. In 2009, the IndyBar conducted a survey in which 83.4 percent of members participating indicated that they favored a nonpartisan merit selection and retention election system in Marion County over the current slating and election system. Further, in 2010, AIB was formed as noted above.

Most recently, on April 11, 2012, the Judicial Qualifications Commission issued an opinion stating that the practice of imposing a slating fee on judicial candidates in Marion County was deemed to be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. As the approved resolution notes, “this practice is but one component of the system by which partisan politics influences the selection of the Marion County judiciary.”

As a result of this approved resolution, the bar will focus on facilitating dialogue related to both short- and long-term solutions designed to implement a better system for selecting Marion County judges, as well as seeking the repeal or reform of the current slating fee practice. All actions related to this effort will be subject to approval by the Board of Directors.•

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