Five attorneys – Jan Carroll, David Hennesy, Kathy Osborn, Joel Schumm, and William Winingham – are vying for a spot on the state commissions, which Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard chairs and include three attorneys selected by their colleagues and three non-attorneys appointed by the governor. Indianapolis attorney John C. Trimble finishes his three-year term for the 2nd District at the end of 2010, and one of these nominees will be chosen to replace him. Attorneys got ballots by mail and have until Nov. 10, 2010, to return those to the Indiana Appellate Clerk’s Office. The newly selected attorney joins the commissions Jan. 1, 2011. Each took a moment to answer some questions posed by Indiana Lawyer about their interests and qualifications for the commissions.
Indiana Lawyer: Why the interest?
Carroll: I’ve been interested in this longer than I was a lawyer. My awareness of it goes back way before I started practicing law in 1985 and 1986, to when I was with the Associated Press covering the process when Chief Justice (Randall) Shepard and Justice (Brent) Dickson were chosen.
Hennessy: On the JQC, I do not recall and have found no one that recalls a criminal law practitioner on the Commission since its inception in 1970. The criminal courts are seemingly much busier than the civil. The perspective of the lawyers, litigants and citizens involved with those courts is needed. I have also noticed a decline in timeliness in starting court sessions and civility toward lawyers, litigants and citizens. Many lawyers and most citizens have no idea that they can file a complaint against a judge, much less how to do so. The availability of that process needs greater exposure and the process itself needs greater transparency. I would also like to see increased sensitivity to the manifestations of the deleterious effects of stress on judges and early intervention. For the JNC, the recent Supreme Court vacancy attracted a multitude of highly qualified candidates and was very transparent. I want that to continue and extend to all actions of the JNC.
Osborn: I have a strong interest and background in public service, and I've followed the work of the commissions since I became an attorney in 1999. During that year, I clerked for Indiana Supreme Court Justices Myra Selby and Frank Sullivan when the Judicial Nominating Commission conducted interviews for Justice Selby's replacement. As a clerk, I had the opportunity to sit in on nearly all of those interviews and observe the commission at work. I found the process both fascinating and rewarding.
Since then, as an appellate practitioner and close court observer (I have been one of the appellate decision columnists for Res Gestae since 2000), I have gained a greater appreciation of the significant role that the Judicial Nominating Commission plays in shaping the composition of the state's appellate courts. The members of both the JNC and JQC perform an important public service and make decisions that go to the core interests of all Indiana citizens, be they individuals, large corporations, small businesses, governmental entities, or not-for-profit organizations. My interest stems from a desire to contribute to this process by recommending candidates who will seek to do justice, and who are not beholden, or viewed as beholden, to a special interest group. I also believe I have the skills to review allegations of judicial misconduct in the balanced and thoughtful manner both complainants and judges deserve.
Justice Sullivan and former Justice Selby are individuals who value and promote diversity within the bar and on the bench, and I believe it is important to further that mission. Groups such as these commissions can best fulfill their purpose when comprised of a diverse group of members who bring to the table a variety of viewpoints and also have open minds.
Unfortunately, however, the attorney-member elections historically have been cast as plaintiff’s versus defense bar races. This perspective disenfranchises a large portion of the practicing bar and does a disservice to the citizens of Indiana, all of whom deserve appellate judges who have the desire and ability to evaluate the law objectively. Moreover, although I believe women now comprise over 50 percent of the bar in Indiana, there has never been a female attorney elected to the commission. Rather than sit on the sidelines and express my disappointment about this, I can change it by being elected.
Schumm: I’ve had the privilege of working for three different judges and always been very interested in the selection and ethics of judges. I have placed interns with judges for several years and regularly discuss issues of selection and ethics in my class.
Winingham: Now that I have more time available, with our kids off to college or out of college, I am ready to devote more time to law-related causes and civic organizations. I have learned to appreciate the importance of good judges during my legal career, and have seen the powerful impact of judicial decisions upon our clients. It is critical that we continue to have top-notch judges in Indiana, and therefore I felt that participating in the JNC would be a worthwhile endeavor.
IL: Is there anything in particular that pushed you to wanting to be on the commission?
Carroll: When I came to Barnes & Thornburg, I was young and very enthusiastic and was tasked with covering that process as a first- or second-year lawyer there. I had talked to one of the old lions in our litigation department about my interest, and he said you can’t run because you’re too new and don’t know anything yet. Reflecting on that, I realized it was probably true then and held off. Over time, and now in practice for 25 years in January, I have that experience. I’ve appeared in state courts all around Indiana on civil litigation, have a lot of exposure to judges – what makes a good judge in temperament and approach, and also how important it is to have intellectual curiosity and to work hard. Now there’s a vacancy and I’m not in a position to be slapped down by those old lions. A number of my colleagues suggested it to me, and I thought it was good time to put my name in.
Hennessy: No discrete event or experience has triggered my interest. My interest is only as stated above.
Osborn: I believe I'm uniquely qualified to serve successfully in this capacity because of my professional experiences, background and knowledge of the Indiana judicial system.
As a seasoned commercial, probate and appellate litigator, I have appeared in a variety of courts throughout Indiana, and I know first-hand how important it is to have an effective judiciary. Through my Inn of Court memberships, as well as my involvement in and chairing of the Indianapolis Bar Association's Appellate Practice Section, I've had the opportunity to work outside the courtroom with several trial and appellate court judges and litigators, both civil and criminal. As such, I am familiar not only with courtroom operations, but also with a broad cross-section of the people who lead and practice in our trial and appellate courts. Similarly, as a result of my clerkships, I have an insider's understanding of how our state's highest court operates, as well as a deep appreciation and respect for the significant role and responsibilities that all of our appellate courts must uphold.
I am 47 years old and before practicing law, I worked for over 11 years at the Indiana University Institute on Disability and Community. My work included providing extensive training on a variety of topics such as group dynamics and organizational change in order to improve access to education, residential, employment and community settings for people with disabilities. As a result of this professional experience, combined with my legal career, I believe I will bring both the maturity and skills that are needed to work with other members of the commissions and to be a force toward positive and productive group dynamics.
Schumm: The experience this summer of reviewing applications, observing all 43 interviews, and writing about several different aspects of the process and candidates for the Indiana Law Blog only heightened my interest.
Winingham: With experience you learn that the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have tremendous power in interpreting our law. Their decisions set precedent which all judges are duty-bound to follow. Understanding the importance of those appellate decisions, I wanted to be involved in making sure that excellent persons would continue to be nominated to fill vacancies on the Court of Appeals and our Supreme Court.
IL: What would this mean for your legal career, or marginally for any attorney who might be put into that position?
Carroll: I don’t look at this as a career enhancement. Anyone who looks at this as a resume polisher has the wrong approach. It’s an opportunity to serve, pure and simple. This doesn’t enhance or detract from (a legal career), and this is not going to give me any enhanced standing. It’s a tremendous commitment of time and I’ve always been a high-energy person, so am committed to do this if I have the opportunity.
Hennessy: A position on the commissions would do nothing for me personally or professionally. I am well recognized and respected in the community and among the bar. I do not believe there is any place for considerations of advancing self or personal interests in serving on the commissions.
Osborn: Membership on these commissions is a public service. I am seeking this position so I can be part of the process of building a strong judiciary, not for the purpose of building my resume.
Schumm: Serving would be an awesome responsibility but very well worth the time and energy. Selecting high quality appellate judges and diligently investigating ethical complaints against all judges are crucial to our system of justice.
Winingham: The JNC is an opportunity to serve the bar and the public in a way that is not political nor for any particular gain. It is simply to make sure that we have the best judiciary possible in Indiana. This benefits all persons and is a way to give back to our profession which has been so good to me.
IL: What do you see as the most important aspect of the commissions' activity, for both the JNC and the JQC?
Carroll: I’m not sure it can be narrowed into most important aspects. The nominating commission is forward-thinking, and looks to fill vacancies and make recommendations to the governor about those who have an influence on common law. On the JQC, the focus is different – it’s about having good judges. It’s to look at judicial ethics issues and to examine disciplinary actions when warranted. Both are critically important to the public. A lot of people, including lawyers, think that these commissions are only for lawyers who litigate or they might be the only ones who should be interested. That’s just flat wrong. I think it’s critically important to realize the commissions serve the public in a very important ways.
Hennessy: The responsibilities of the commissions are narrowly drawn and none are more important than others. I would say that oversight of judicial qualifications is very important and requires a more expansive effort than filling the specified vacancies
Osborn: The most important charge of the Judicial Nominating Commission is to identify nominees to present to the governor who have the ability and skills necessary to evaluate the law objectively in every matter, foster confidence in the Indiana judiciary and serve as strong role models for children and others who aspire to be jurists themselves.
The Commission on Judicial Qualifications has the very sensitive and important task of screening and investigating allegations of judicial misconduct. I believe the most important aspect of this work for members on the commission is to evaluate allegations in a way that does not indulge mere attempts at an alternative to the appellate process on substantive issues, but takes seriously legitimate and viable concerns regarding perceived or potential judicial misconduct.
Schumm: I think both functions—nominating and qualifications—are equally important.
Winingham: The most important aspect of the work of the JNC and JQC is to ensure that the public can be confident in the integrity and competency of Indiana judges. This mission is fulfilled by the JQC review of misconduct allegations against judges and the JNC job of selecting candidates for the governor to consider in filling vacancies on the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The common thread between these two is ensuring that we continue to have judges in whom the public can trust, and therefore a judicial system in which the public can trust.
IL: How do you go about campaigning within the legal community to be voted for?
Carroll: In my case, it’s more word-of-mouth and personal contacts. My colleagues in other firms statewide also help spread the word. One of the virtues of being with the AP is knowing a lot of lawyers and I’ve maintained those contacts through the years. Mostly now, I think there’s more word-of-mouth that I’m not sure was there in previous years. Every lawyer is looking for someone who is truly neutral and has the experience and background to make good decisions. I’m considering letter-writing after receiving one early on. I think the function of any of these communications is to say: “hey, there’s an election, be alert and cast your ballot.”
Hennessy: My motivation was to simply offer an alternative to the electorate and hadn't considered campaigning. I even declined the CD of attorney contact information that was offered. I am now, however, being urged to "campaign" and if I do so would likely send letters and rely on word-of-mouth.
Osborn: Consistent with my desire to be a representative of all Indiana attorneys, I have been contacting a wide range of lawyers, not just in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, but in all of the counties that comprise the 2nd District. This includes in-house attorneys, private and public practitioners, solo and large firm lawyers, pro bono plan administrators, litigators and non-litigators, women and men, new attorneys and seasoned practitioners, academics, and minority and majority lawyers. I have been making phone calls and sending e-mails to people who know me, and those people in turn have made contacts with their personal networks. I also have sent letters to representatives of all of the county bar associations within the 2nd District and am continuing to reach out to them. Baker & Daniels also issued a press release that is posted on the Baker & Daniels website at www.bakerdaniels.com. And my friends and colleagues are making use of social media to further my campaign efforts.
Schumm: I will not be sending out any mail or placing ads. I will be relying heavily on e-mail and word-of-mouth with the help of a network of friends and former students.
Winingham: I have made many phone calls to lawyers all throughout our district, and also sent a letter recently explaining my interest in the position and summarizing why I felt I would be a good selection. I plan to continue with phone calls and personal contacts leading up to the election.
IL: What would you want the legal community in those nine counties to know?
Carroll: I have 25 years practicing in state and appellate courts, and my practice has taken me to the Indiana Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. So, I know how the state courts work and function. That depth of knowledge is what I have to offer.
Hennessy: I am sincere and have no personal agenda.
Osborn: I will bring a balanced perspective to the commissions. I am not solely a plaintiff's lawyer, nor am I solely a defense lawyer. My practice ranges from pro bono representation of indigent parties to counseling and representation of small businesses and multi-national corporations. I have the desire and ability to be a true representative and public servant. Throughout my non-legal and legal careers, I have tried to use my talent to give back to the community, and I believe that serving on these commissions is an appropriate next step.
I also would like the members of the legal community in those nine counties to vote! There are over 6,000 attorneys who will receive ballots in October, but only a small fraction of attorneys have ever voted in these elections.
Schumm: I share your goal of a high quality, ethical, and impartial judiciary. I have no agenda other than to select the best candidates and ensure judges are ethical and respectful to all. No one will work harder or have higher expectations.
Winingham: After 30 years in practice, I have an extensive and diverse set of experiences. I was a state court and federal court prosecutor for 6 years, followed by 25 years in civil practice. This means I can understand the importance of issues in both criminal and civil cases. I understand after 30 years of experience that judges should be selected who can appreciate arguments on either side of a controversy. I have always taken pride in my ability to get along with lawyers in all areas of practice, and feel that maintaining civility and respect for one another, and for the bench, are critical to the administration of justice. I am probably known as a plaintiffs' lawyer, but hope that I have developed a reputation for fairness and respect for all attorneys in all areas of practice.