Justice interviews wrap up as JNC works to pick finalists

With the interview process complete, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush and the Judicial Nominating Commission are now tasked with selecting three people to be considered as the next justice of the court. Interviews with the 11 semifinalists wrapped up Wednesday morning, after which Rush and the JNC met in executive session to deliberate and decide on the three names to send to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will make the final selection.

Five candidates sat for their interviews on Wednesday, including two of the finalists for last year’s selection process that ultimately put Justice Geoffrey Slaughter on the bench. Here’s a look at what they had to say:

Judge Peter Foley, Morgan Superior Court

Changes in society have inevitably produced changes in the law over the years, but the JNC wanted to know what role the Indiana Supreme Court should play in facilitating that change. Foley noted the judiciary as a whole is slow to adopt change, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He likened change in the law to making a U-turn in an aircraft carrier – it’s an intentionally slow, deliberate process.

Asked how he prepared for his second round of interviews, Foley said he conferred with previous applicants to get their perspectives on the interview process. Additionally, the judge said he reached out to the court itself to learn more about its administrative arm.

Judge Matthew Kincaid, Boone Superior Court

For Kincaid, his philosophy on the bench and in life is simple – work hard and be nice to everyone. That’s a message he tries to teach his children and apply to his own life, Kincaid said, and if selected to replace Justice Robert Rucker, he hopes that mantra will define his legacy on the bench.

Kincaid’s legal work has included involvement with various committees, including the Criminal Instructions Committee, and he said those experiences have enriched him as a judge. Additionally, it’s crucial for a judge to leave his or her office and get out into the community, Kincaid said, which is an opportunity he is frequently given through his committee work.

Peter Rusthoven, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Civility is an important element of serving on the Indiana Supreme Court, and Rusthoven told the JNC that he tries to maintain civility even with the harshest of opponents. Rusthoven said he generally operates with the mindset that opposing counsel is just doing their job, and he could only think of one instance in which he had acted less than collegially with another attorney.

While a student at Harvard Law School, Rusthoven said he went to school with Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s never-confirmed nominee to the Supreme Court of the United State. Garland was a year behind Rusthoven and was a bright legal student, the attorney said, so in a “different era,” Rusthoven said he believed Garland could have been easily confirmed to the nation’s highest bench.

Leslie Henderzahs, Church Church Hittle & Antrim

Social media is changing how lawyers work, and at her firm, Henderzahs said the general rule of thought is that it’s best for attorneys not to become too involved in the social media world. When she’s advising younger attorneys about their social media use, Henderzahs said she has a simple philosophy – “If your grandmother wouldn’t approve, it better not be out there.”

Faced with a question about the record-low percentage of students passing the bar, Henderzahs said she did not believe the low rates were too great of a concern. Being a lawyer comes with a requirement for a strong work ethic, she said, and if a student can put in the effort to pass law school, then he or she must also put in the effort to pass the bar. In the meantime, Henderzahs said the judiciary should encourage students to take internships and other similar positions to illustrate the importance of preparing for the bar in order to become a lawyer.

Judge Steven Hostetler, St. Joseph Superior Court

Though his presence on the court wouldn’t visibly promote racial diversity, Hostetler said his current work as a judge already gives him the opportunity to work with minority groups. Interacting with such groups is a key element of promoting diversity in the judiciary, Hostetler said, as is being an encouragement to minority groups.

Inside Hostetler’s application binder that he submitted to the JNC was a printed copy of Article 1, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution, which calls for open courts and speedy trials. Hostetler said he placed a copy of that section in his binder because it helps defines his philosophy in his legal career and reminds him why he does his work as a judge.

Highlights from Tuesday’s interviews can be read here. Check back to theindianalawyer.com and @Indiana_Lawyer on Twitter for updates on the JNC’s selection of the three finalists.


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