An Indiana House committee will hear a bill Wednesday that would institute a new system for selecting the 36 judges of Marion Superior Court but would retain the partisan balance on the court that was a key element of the former system invalidated by a federal court.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee will hear House Bill 1036 at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room 156-C. The legislation authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, would create a 14-member judicial-selection committee that would vet candidates for judgeships and recommend three names to the governor for selection. Critics argue the proposed panels put political interests ahead of merit.
Senate Bill 79, a companion measure to HB 1036, has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing but is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, also introduced legislation for filling judicial vacancies in Indianapolis. Young’s Senate Bill 568 also would retain partisan balance and create a 13-member panel whose membership would be similar to that of HB 1036. However, its interviews of candidates would be behind closed doors, taking place in executive session, among other differences. Young also would allow the commission to directly appoint judges in the case of a sitting judge retiring, losing a retention election or in other specified cases.
Young’s bill also has not been scheduled for a committee hearing but is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The General Assembly must come up with a new means of choosing judges this session after Indianapolis’ slating system was struck down by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015. The next judicial election is 2018, and no system for selecting Marion County judges is in place.