And then there were 11.
From a pool of 20 candidates to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Indiana Supreme Court after Justice Robert Rucker retires, a little over half remain after the first round of interviews with members of the Judicial Nominating Commission last month. Among the 11 semi-finalists are six judges, a state representative, four women, one African-American candidate and the two finalists whom former Gov. Mike Pence considered for the seat on the bench ultimately given to Justice Geoffrey Slaughter. Each of the 11 remaining candidates will have their second round of interviews the week of April 17.
As the semifinalists prepare for the next step in the process toward Gov. Eric Holcomb’s first appellate judicial appointment, here’s what they had to say in the first round of interviews.
Judge Vicki Carmichael
Law school: University of Louisville, 1987
Position: Clark Circuit Court judge
From her interview: Rucker’s retirement leaves the JNC and Holcomb with the challenge of finding a way to bring diversity to the Indiana court. Though her selection would not racially diversify the bench, Carmichael said diversity can be found through different genders, experiences and ideologies. If she, Judge Maria Granger, Elizabeth Green or Leslie Henderzahs are appointed to the court, it would be the first time in the state’s history that two women have sat on the Indiana Supreme Court at once.
Judge Peter Foley
Law school: IU McKinney, 1997
Position: Morgan Superior Court judge
From his interview: The principles of statutory interpretation were frequently discussed during the first round of interviews. When asked what he might do if the plain reading of a statute would yield an “absurd” result in a case, Foley said the court is required to look to the text of the statute to try to resolve any ambiguities. It can be problematic for judges to say, “We know what the Legislature meant,” Foley said, so judges can use their opinions to make suggestions to lawmakers, though they cannot independently rewrite legislation.
Judge Christopher Goff
Law school: IU Maurer, 1996
Position: Wabash Superior Court judge
From his interview: If he were selected to succeed Rucker, Goff said his contribution to the court would be his strong collaboration skills. Asked to give an example of how he’s used those skills to the benefit of the judiciary, Goff pointed to his work on the creation of the Indiana Domestic Violence Prevention Partnership. The judge said he worked with the Supreme Court, domestic violence organizations and all eight judges in the 9th judicial administrative district to garner their support and develop a judicial program in an area with a high need.
Judge Maria Granger
Law school: IU McKinney, 1994
Position: Floyd Superior Court judge
From her interview: Though the majority of Indiana Supreme Court opinions have unanimous support from the justices, occasional dissents are written. If she were faced with a situation in which she disagreed with her colleagues, Granger said she would want her dissents to emulate those of Rucker, the man she would replace. In his dissenting opinions, Rucker is kind and gentle, Granger said, and she would want to take the same approach to explaining her opposing point of view.
Law school: IU Maurer, 2005
Position: Riley Bennett Egloff LLP partner
From her interview: As one of only four semifinalists who work in private practice, Green was asked how she would respond if she, as a justice, were asked to hear a case involving her current firm. Aside from following any judicial rules related to recusal, Green said she would have to look at her previous involvement in the case. If it were one in which she was heavily involved while she was still with the firm, Green said recusal would likely be appropriate.
Law school: IU McKinney, 1990
Position: Church Church Hittle & Antrim partner
From her interview: Currently an attorney in private practice, Henderzahs told Chief Justice Loretta Rush and the JNC that her firm’s culture of consensus building would translate well to the Supreme Court. Henderzahs said she would welcome the opportunity to engage in roundtable discussions with the other justices as they work toward decisions in the cases they hear.
Judge Steven Hostetler
Law school: IU Maurer, 1983
Position: St. Joseph Superior Court judge
From his interview: A finalist in the last judicial selection process that ultimately put Slaughter on the bench, Hostetler said he has made a concerted effort toward promoting pro bono work in the last year. As part of his efforts to encourage attorneys to serve as counsel on pro bono cases, Hostetler said he posts a list of cases needing representation around his courthouse, then learns the names of the attorneys who took those cases and calls to thank them for their work.
Judge Matthew Kincaid
Law school: Loyola University of Chicago, 1997
Position: Boone Superior Court judge
From his interview: Asked how the legal landscape in Indiana might change in 10 years, Kincaid, a finalist to replace former Justice Brent Dickson, noted the internet is already making a difference in the practice of law. Additionally, Kincaid said he was concerned about the rising costs of litigation and about the decline of jury trials. Kincaid told the JNC he would like to see the court develop a system in which it is more economical to bring an issue before trial courts.
Law school: IU Maurer, 1989
Position: Riley Williams & Piatt LLC principal managing member
From his interview: Although he said he could never truly seek to fill Rucker’s shoes, Riley said he admired the justice’s respect for the needs of the “common man.” If selected to replace Rucker on the bench, Riley said he would seek to emulate that trait by recognizing his judicial responsibility to the common man and how his decisions could impact the everyday lives of Hoosiers.
Law school: Harvard, 1976
Position: Barnes & Thornburg LLP partner
From his interview: Asked how his past experiences would complement the other four justices on the court, Rusthoven gave the JNC a variety of answers, including his background in out-of-state law. A graduate of Harvard Law School who has also worked in Washington, D.C., Rusthoven said he has had the opportunity to learn and work alongside people from across the country and around the world, exposing him to different ideas and broadening his perception of the law.
Rep. Thomas Washburne
Law school: IU McKinney, 1990
Position: Old National Bancorp V.P., associate counsel
From his interview: Aside from questions about his work in the Legislature, Washburne also faced questions about judicial issues, such as how the Supreme Court can promote a business-friendly climate in Indiana. The principles that would help businesses succeed are the same ones that benefit all litigants, Washburne said — fair, timely and accurate decisions, whether a litigant is in the midst of a criminal case or a commercial court matter.•