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Justice applicant pool reflective of Indiana

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The attorney Gov. Mitch Daniels eventually chooses to become Indiana’s next Supreme Court justice will have come from a pool of applicants that was fairly representative of the state’s population. The question remains whether the new justice will change the demographics of the high court. Indiana’s justices are all men: four Caucasian and one African-American.

Fifteen people applied to be next Indiana justice, but only seven remain in the running for the position. The demographics of the original applicant pool and the semi-finalists group don’t match up exactly to the number of minorities and women in Indiana, but the groups came pretty close.

shively Evansville attorney Les Shively, standing, interviewed with the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission Feb. 8 to become an Indiana justice. Shively was one of 15 people who applied to replace Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard on the Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy Indiana Supreme Court)

The breakdown

Eight men and seven women applied for the judicial seat opening when Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard retires March 4. According to census figures from 2010, women make up the majority in Indiana – but not by much. Women outnumber men by less than two percent.

Of the 15 initial applicants, only two – or 13 percent – are minorities. Non-Caucasians make up nearly 16 percent of the Indiana population, according to census data. The percentages didn’t change much with the makeup of the seven semi-finalists: One minority remains in the group – which translates to 14 percent of the applicant pool.

The percentage of women represented in the semi-finalist group decreased to 43 percent.

The analysis becomes murky when trying to compare the applicants’ demographics to the Indiana legal community. Although the courts ask for attorneys’ gender and race during registration, that information is not required. Myra Selby, chair of the Supreme Court’s Commission on Race and Gender Fairness, said the commission has only been asking for that information for about three years. The place to fill in one’s race and gender is on the Indiana bar card.

The first couple of years the information was on the card, it was in small print and on the back, so many attorneys may have missed it, Selby said. The questions have been moved recently to a more prominent position on the card, but she isn’t sure yet if it will result in more people providing that information.

According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, there are 17,605 lawyers who are admitted to practice and in good standing in the state. Data from the Roll of Attorneys and the Indiana Supreme Court vary on racial and gender makeup of Indiana’s legal profession, but both show that the number of men who practice in Indiana is around double that of women. According to data from both sources, the majority of people listed Caucasian as their race, followed by African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian-American. A handful of people listed “other” under race.

applicantsEncouraging diverse applicants

The Indiana State Bar Association’s Diversity Committee and the Commission on Race and Gender Fairness are tackling issues involving women and minorities, but neither have programs in place to encourage minorities to apply for appellate judicial positions. Selby said it’s certainly an idea worth exploring in Indiana as she’s seen efforts in other states that have been well met and supported by the bench and bar.

Attorney John O. Feighner, who served on the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission from 2003-2005 and 2009-2011, said his goal when selecting the next appellate judge or justice was to have a diverse group of people that would allow the commission to pick the best three candidates to send to the governor’s office.

“We’ve made a lot of progress to try and seek out many diverse applicants for the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court for the commission to consider. The court has made extraordinary efforts through the Internet and documenting the process … to hopefully encourage everyone to know it’s an open, merit-based selection process,” he said.

Feighner also pointed out that the commission has sent a diverse applicant trio to the governor to select from in recent years. At least one woman has been included as a finalist for the Indiana Court of Appeals vacancies in 2007 and 2008, and a minority was a finalist for the 2008 opening. Dubois Superior Judge Elaine Brown was chosen to fill the position in 2008; Marion Superior Judge Cale Bradford was selected in 2007. Both judges are Caucasian.

applicantsWhen it came time to select Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm’s replacement in 2010, the governor had three Caucasians – including a woman – to choose from. He picked Boone Circuit Judge Steven David.

Since 1985, the commission has interviewed candidates to fill eight vacancies on the Supreme Court. At least one woman has been named a finalist in six of those selection processes, with Selby being selected in 1994. Both she and current Justice Robert Rucker have been the only minorities on the high court, and Selby has been the only female justice.

Why diversity matters

Sharon Murphy, chair of the Diversity Committee for the Indiana State Bar Association, believes Indiana needs to be more cognizant of the value of diversity and the richness that it provides to everyone when it’s accepted and incorporated.

“If we have a judiciary that represents the population, you’re likely to get more people who see the judiciary – in whatever capacity – who realize they can be a part of the legal community,” she said.

Selby would rather not focus on the fact that Indiana is just one of three states to not have a sitting female justice, and instead look at the goal of having the court reflect the state in which it sits.

“There are many important qualities and qualifications that go into being an appellate court judge,” she said. “I don’t think any one automatically vaults to the top over another, but I do continue to believe that the court is certainly enhanced by having a voice that is different in whatever respects from everyone else, so that every voice contributes to the whole.”•
 

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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