Panel names 3 Tax Court judge finalists

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After a morning of interviews with seven semi-finalists, the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission has recommended three names for the governor to consider in choosing the state’s next Tax Court judge.

Commission members deliberated for about 90 minutes before reaching a decision just before 2 p.m., choosing Bloomington attorney Joby Jerrells, Hendricks Superior 3 Judge Karen Love, and Martha Wentworth of Greenwood as finalists to recommend to Gov. Mitch Daniels. The others interviewed today were: George Angelone, Dan Carwile, Hon. Carol Comer, and Melony Sacopulos.

Four women and three men came before the commission for the 25-minute second round of interviews, with only one break in between each group. These followed an initial round on Sept. 27 with 14 applicants, and delved more in-depth into each person’s backgrounds and what they think about the Tax Court.

The commission had submitted a question to each semi-finalist, asking them to reflect on how the tax judge might contribute to the development of the state’s jurisprudence and to the improvement of the overall judiciary.

“All the candidates have experience that gives us the core competency and intellect, which is good news for this commission and the state,” said banking attorney Carwile from Evansville.

Most of the semi-finalists discussed public access and transparency and making sure the tax court has the most efficient operation, so that its cases move through as quickly as possible and the public understands what is happening. Some offered thoughts on issues they see facing the court in coming years, and ways their own backgrounds and experiences would be beneficial for the court and judiciary.

Jerrells, a second-career attorney admitted in 2003 who works both as a deputy prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office and is also a self-employed attorney out of his home in Bloomington, talked about his experience in all types of law. If chosen, he’d be interested in trying to “refine, hone, and improve” the jurisprudence that has been created during the past quarter century. An electronic docket would be beneficial for that court’s efficiency, and he also said he’d want to make sure pro se litigants understood the process. Responding to a question about the structure of how appeals come from the Department of Revenue, Jerrells told members that the issue is “brewing” and that the discretion given by the Tax Court to those state agency decisions might need to be examined, possibly by a rule or statute. He also said timeliness should be examined and efficiency should be improved if necessary, particularly since there’s no “lazy judge” rule as exists for state trial courts.

As the only trial judge interviewed, Judge Love said the tax judge’s responsibility is to provide “timely and affordable justice for all” and that her experience on the bench since 1995 has prepared her for this role on the administrative and legal and judiciary sides. She hopes the tax court judge can help Indiana become a leader in tax law just like it is known nationally for jury reform.

In addition to her judicial career, she’s also practiced privately, worked as a certified accountant and through the years has helped draft the state’s Child Support Guidelines.

One commission member said that he was impressed with her writing, and Judge Love noted that she’s learned from the lawyers and other jurists throughout the state. “I’m a product of the legal profession, the judiciary in Indiana,” she said. “I want you to see what trial judges are like, and I want to make them proud.”

Wentworth echoed many of the aspects that her fellow semi-finalists pointed out, and noted that she’d spent time during the past month reading State of the Judiciary speeches to get an idea of how the Hoosier judiciary has progressed through the years. Now as tax director for the multi-state group Deloitte Tax LLP, Wentworth has previously served in roles that included clerking for the Tax Court in the early 1990s and has worked closely through the years with the state Department of Revenue. Her experience shows that she’s advocated for continuing education and professionalism and collegiality, she said.

Saying that judges must be careful in communicating with lawmakers, she said it would be appropriate to help the legislature understand what possible unintended consequences might result from state statute changes. Wentworth said the state faces so many intriguing and challenging legal questions on tax law, such as what is considered distortion on taxes, the amount of discretion the DOR has in allowing separate corporate entities to file separate or joint returns, and how the state agency can discretionarily change federal taxable income.

Now, with those three chosen as finalists, the commission will submit a report to the governor’s office and he’ll have 60 days to make a decision. Whoever is appointed will succeed Judge Thomas G. Fisher, who is retiring at year’s end after 24 years of service on the court that was first created in 1986.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

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  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.