In less than 30 minutes, the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission cut in half the list of applicants to become the state’s second-ever Indiana Tax Court judge.
The seven-member commission chaired by Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard ended its first round of interviews with 14 applicants Monday afternoon, going into a closed-door executive session about 3:15 p.m. By 4 p.m., the members were ready to hold a public vote announcing the seven they’d bring back for a second interview:
– George Angelone, an Indianapolis attorney with the Legislative Services Agency who was admitted to practice in 1976.
– Dan Carwile, a longtime banking attorney who is senior vice president with Old National Wealth Management in Evansville. He was admitted to practice in 1983.
– Hon. Carol Comer, an administrative law judge with the Indiana Board of Tax Review who has been practicing since 1996.
– Joby Jerrells, a second-career attorney admitted in 2003 who works both in the Indiana Attorney General’s Office as a deputy prosecutor and also a self-employed attorney out of his home in Bloomington.
– Hon. Karen Love, who has been on the Hendricks Superior bench since 1995 after practicing privately and working previously as a certified accountant.
– Melony Sacopulos, who is general counsel at Indiana State University in Terre Haute but has been practicing since 1988.
– Martha Wentworth, tax director at the Greenwood-based multistate group Deloitte Tax LLP who’s previously served in roles that included clerking for the Tax Court in the early 1990s.
These seven will have their next interviews before the commission Oct. 27, and three names will be sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels to consider for the final appointment. Whoever is chosen will replace Judge Thomas G. Fisher, who was the state’s first tax judge in 1986 and is retiring at year’s end.
Leading up to the vote today, the commission had started interviews at 9 a.m. with those interested in the appellate tax court. Fifteen had originally applied, but one person withdrew his name last week. Aside from those named as semi-finalists, also interviewing were Andrew Swain, Hon. Bruce Kolb, Marilyn Meighen, Joseph Pearman, Randle Pollard, Michelle Baldwin, and Thomas Ewbank.
Each person appeared for a 20 minute interview. The chief justice greeted each applicant who came before the commission today, thanking that person for applying and asking everyone about their interest in the judicial spot. The responses were all similar, differing to a degree based on their own experiences. Many said this judicial post would be a logical evolution in their legal careers and that they wanted to continue the practice of having fair and concise caselaw that Judge Fisher has created during the past 24 years.
“I’ve always enjoyed the intellectual puzzles that tax law presents,” Sacopulos said about her interest, delving into her work for a national tax office in Washington, D.C., that she said gave her unique experience.
Commissioners asked some of the same questions to applicants, such as about their views on the Tax Court’s mission and how the court and judge should interact with the legislature on tax law and issues. Members also turned to applicants’ information about their most significant legal matters and also how those experiences might have prepared them for the tax bench.
Judge Love discussed what she calls the “ABCs” of this court, which she described as meaning the attitude of a judge, the balance she can bring based on her experience, and those critical aspects of clarity, consistency, and communication.
In his response, Angelone said he’s focused on tax and public finance work and the Legislative Services Agency is one of the only places you can find a similar caseload to what the Tax Court faces. He noted that two- or three-year waits on some tax issues at the local level isn’t good enough, and more must be done at that stage to make the process more efficient. The bar could help with that, possibly through continuing legal education, he said.