ILNews

Lucas: Is diversity within the judiciary important?

Kelly Lucas
February 15, 2012
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EidtPerspLucas-sigChange is coming.

Many were surprised when Chief Justice Randall Shepard announced his impending retirement last year. Indiana’s mandatory retirement age for judges is going to force turnover on the Court of Appeals this year as well. Word on the street is other vacancies on the appellate bench may occur. Attorneys interested in vying for Court of Appeals and Supreme Court openings are keenly aware of the opportunities on the horizon.

On page 3, you will read about the process currently underway to select the newest Supreme Court justice. The pool began with 15 interested applicants, and it has now been narrowed to seven. A group that began with seven women and eight men is now three women and four men. The original group included two African-American women, and one of these women remains in contention for the judicial opening. It might be coincidence, but I surmise that the Judicial Nominating Commission is keeping diversity in mind when going about the difficult task of selecting semi-finalists and, eventually, finalists.

In her story, Jennifer Nelson looks at how the gender and racial makeup of the judicial candidate pool stacks up against Indiana’s general population and that of the state’s legal community. Will Indiana, one of the few states in the country that does not have a female presence on the high court, create gender diversity with this selection? Is that important?

Myra Selby, a former Indiana Supreme Court justice and the only woman to have served on Indiana’s Supreme Court, says a goal should be to have the court reflect the state it serves. She reiterates the point many echo that there are many important qualities and qualifications that go into being an appellate court judge, but Selby, who serves as chair of the Supreme Court’s Commission on Race and Gender Fairness, adds that the court is enhanced by having different “voices” contributing to the whole.

As the JNC continues its task of selecting finalists for the Supreme Court, the Indiana Lawyer would like to know what our readers think. Is increasing racial diversity or creating gender diversity within the court a consideration when evaluating candidates? Should an applicant’s race or gender factor into the decision-making process? Is the work of the court impacted by its makeup?

Email your thoughts to klucas@ibj.com.•

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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