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Attorneys added to Marion County judicial selection committee

February 18, 2016

The Courts and Criminal Code Committee in the Indiana House of Representatives passed an amendment Wednesday modifying the makeup of the Marion County judicial selection committee. The amendment adds more Marion County attorneys to the committee that will send names to the governor for appointment.

The speaker of the House, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the Senate president pro tem, and the minority leader of the Senate each will appoint one attorney to the 14-person committee. These members must live in Marion County and may not be a member of the General Assembly.

The amendment also added the presidents of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana and the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, or their designees, to the committee, as well as the chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals and the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. The judges are not required to be Marion County residents.

The amendment also requires interviews with sitting judges or those seeking to fill a vacancy will be held with the commission in executive session. Nominations and recommendations concerning retention will be announced at a public meeting, although voting details will remain confidential. Notice of support for retention or finding a judge should not be retained will be posted on the websites of the Indiana Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The affirmative vote of nine members is required for it to take any official action with respect to any candidate for judicial office.

Senate Bill 352 originally called for a 16-member committee consisting of eight members from the General Assembly, the presidents of the IndyBar and MCBA or their designees, and three members appointed by the chairperson of each major political party. The amendment passed Wednesday removed the legislative representatives from the committee and reduced the number of members appointed by the political parties to two each.

Legislators were forced to change how Marion Superior judges are elected in Marion County after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that the current selection process is unconstitutional. The federal appeals court tossed out the system that assured an even split of Democratic and Republican judges on ballot and facilitated a pay-to-play party slating system.

It was a unique system that didn’t appear to exist anywhere else in the country.

House committee members voted 8-2 to approve the bill, with the amendments, and move it to the full House for consideration.

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