ILNews

Indiana justice gender issue resurfaces

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Seventy-two percent of applicants for the current vacancy on the Indiana Supreme Court were women. After a first round of interviews, 60 percent of semifinalists were women. The number fell to 33 percent – just one woman – by the time Gov. Mitch Daniels got the final three names.

Nation Nation

The numbers are disappointing to court watchers who thought odds were stronger this time around that two or potentially three women might be among the finalists from whom Daniels will appoint the next justice.

Indiana is one of just three states, including Idaho and Iowa, that have no women on their supreme courts. Only one woman, Myra Selby, has ever served on Indiana’s Supreme Court. She left the bench in 1999 after four years.

Charles Geyh, a professor and judicial appointment expert at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, said the issue represents at the very least a perception problem for the judiciary and the selection process, though he said the finalists selected each were imminently qualified. He said gender “absolutely” should be a consideration for the high court vacancy.

loretta rush Rush

“This isn’t about affirmative action, and I recognize the Supreme Court of Indiana is not like a legislature. Nonetheless, it does serve the people of Indiana, and by the way, half of them are women,” Geyh said.

“It’s hard to defend unless you can look at the Indiana bar and say women are so deficient that they don’t deserve a spot on the Supreme Court, and I don’t think anyone is that out of their mind,” he said. “To me, when you’re talking about a Supreme Court that’s serving the entirety of the state, you ought to be mindful, I think, of the perceptions you create.”

Diversity was a topic most semifinalists before the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission were asked to discuss during their interviews on Aug. 8. Many of them said gender and racial diversity were important, but they said diversity of background, professional and life experience also were important.

geoff slaughter Slaughter

If Daniels does select a woman this time, it will be Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush. Other finalists the commission selected are Hamilton Superior Judge Steven Nation and Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP partner Geoffrey Slaughter.

“I think each one of them is well qualified and brings different strengths to the table,” said Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law who watched and commented on the commission’s interviews.

Schumm said Rush’s semifinalist interview with the commission stood out to him as the day’s best.

“She was confident but not arrogant,” he said. But Schumm said Slaughter is among the best appellate attorneys in the state, and Nation probably has the broadest base of experience of the finalists.

Schumm said he heard from a number of women who were upset that only one woman had advanced for the governor’s consideration. Schumm said he understood the sentiment, but he also understood the commission’s choices.

“It was an open and fair process, and what I hope doesn’t happen is fewer people or fewer women in general apply in the future,” he said. “That said, each one of the three finalists is well qualified and it’s hard to say how the governor makes a decision of who’s best qualified. … There’s not a consistent yardstick for that.”

finalistsThe commission’s decision was marked by a rare departure from its customary unanimous public votes in favor of a slate of three finalists. Commission member Jim McDonald, a Terre Haute private practice attorney, voted against the three finalists but declined to explain what prompted him to do so.

McDonald acknowledged the unusual circumstance, saying only, “I felt strongly enough then that I was going to vote my conscience.”

Daniels will have 60 days from the official receipt of a letter notifying him of the commission’s decision to appoint a justice to replace Frank Sullivan Jr., who retired from the court to join the faculty at I.U. McKinney School of Law. It’s unclear what role gender may play in Daniels’ decision, or whether he may move faster since Sullivan has departed.

“The governor will approach this vacancy the way he has the others,” Daniels’ deputy press secretary Jake Oakman said in a statement. “He will select the best qualified person and make the selection when he’s ready.”

Geyh said the fact that just one woman was among the finalists “kind of forces the governor’s hand a little bit. If he was going to choose a woman, he has only one choice.”

Melissa Cohen of Cohen & Sawochka P.C. in Merrillville is president of the Indiana Women Lawyers Association, a nonpartisan organization that represents about 100 attorneys, mostly in northwest Indiana. She said it’s a concern to the group that Indiana is just one of three states without female representation on the state’s court of last resort.

Cohen said all the finalists are qualified candidates, but “we thought there were enough qualified women candidates that more than one could be considered for the final three.”

“The Women Lawyers Association thinks that there are many qualified women in the state of Indiana who would be excellent Supreme Court justices,” Cohen said. “There were more women applicants than men. We’re grateful that there is at least one woman in the final three.”

Cohen said the IWLA’s mission is to support the advancement of women lawyers and judges. The group also conducts legal seminars and mentors women lawyers and law students.

“We do think that a woman Supreme Court justice will favorably change the dynamics of the Supreme Court and enrich the measure of justice,” she said.•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • pfft
    I have no problem with a woman judge at any level of the court system. nevertheless the sex-parity conversations smack of affirmative action and are totally inappropriate and undignified for the judiciary. I don't care that all the wonks and talking heads love to make these head-counting ethnic and "gender" analyses, they are all inappropriate for the small number of slots out there in the judiciary. When you categorize human types you can fashion as many categories as imaginable. So does every imaginable category need a represenatative on the bench? That whole conversation is ridiculous and the higher you go the more ridiculous it gets and the US Supreme Court discussions along these lines are the absolutely most offensive. Also I'm a white male, and yes these category style promotions are always at the expense of white males. Do I need to be happy that my category always gets the disadvantage? I'm not even if we are socalled "overrepresented."
  • New Justice needs to be Objective and Independent
    I too was disappointed to see only one female selected in the final three. There were many other candidates who weren’t former partners with the new Chief Justice and just as qualified. Although she is likely a qualified candidate shouldn’t the 2nd Indiana Supreme Court Justice give the appearance to be fair and impartial? After all isn’t that what justice are supposed to be? Didn't the legislature pass a bill last legislative session prohibiting cronyism and nepotism?

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

ADVERTISEMENT