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Legislators discuss need for ‘people’s voice’ in selecting Marion Superior judges

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Indiana Legislators raised several concerns Monday afternoon during the conference committee for House Bill 1036, which establishes merit selection for choosing Marion Superior judges. Several expressed the need to allow the general public to have a say through elections.

Republican Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis said there needs to be a consideration for Marion County residents to have some voice in who their judges are, whatever form that takes. The current form of the bill lets residents from four geographical districts in Marion County elect one representative from their district to sit on the Marion County Judicial Selection Committee. The committee would vet candidates and recommend names to the governor for appointment to the bench. Judges on the bench would then be up for retention vote.

Four of the other committee members would be appointed by Indiana House and Senate leaders from both parties; two each would be appointed by Marion County Democratic and Republican party chairs; and one judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals and one Indiana Supreme Court justice would sit on it.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, argued every Hoosier deserves an opportunity to elect their officials and said accountability comes through the election box. He called out Rep. Greg Steuerwald, who authored the bill, saying the Avon Republican only accepted views from the majority party in crafting the bill. Taylor and other members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus have argued that this bill won’t ensure diversity on the bench.  

He pointed out that bills have been introduced in recent years to change the selection of judges in Lake and St. Joseph Counties from merit-selection to elections. Those bills did not pass.

Taylor also said this bill “smells of conflict” in that the governor will have a say in who the Marion Superior judges are and that Marion County has jurisdiction over legal issues involving the government and the governor. He suggested residents elect nine judges from each of the four districts outlined in the bill as a way to achieve diversity on the bench.

Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, comes from St. Joseph County, which uses merit selection to pick its judges. He noted the process is a little different in his county as compared to HB 1036 and questioned why under the Marion County bill, the political party chairpersons get to appoint people to serve on the selection committee.

He also questioned why all counties don’t switch to merit selection if it’s such a great process.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, and Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, also expressed concerns about taking away the people’s right to vote for their judges.

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, pointed out questions have been raised by the American Civil Liberties Union about the bill and that “we don’t want to pass something that will automatically result in a lawsuit and stress the system further.”

At the end of the meeting, Steuerwald said he plans to work with the co-authors and sponsors and come up with a report for consideration. The session is scheduled to end next week, but legislators have said they'd like to wrap up this week.

The Legislature needs to pass a bill reforming how Marion Superior judges are selected after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the current system in September 2015 as unconstitutional.

For the last 40 years, Marion Superior judges pay a slating fee to be on the primary, and an equal number of Republicans and Democrats are elected through the primary to face a vote in the general election. Because the number of names placed on the general ballot is equal to the number of spots on the bench up for grabs, if a candidate makes it out of the primary, he or she is basically guaranteed to be elected in November.

Archived video of the conference committee is available here.

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  1. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  2. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  3. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  4. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

  5. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

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