Indiana legislative, political and judicial leaders have appointed all 14 members of the newly created Marion County Judicial Selection Commission, marking the beginning of the controversial judicial selection system that critics say could be ripe for a legal challenge.
The commission, legislatively mandated by House Enrolled Act 1036, was created to replace the former slating system that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional. Under HEA 1036, the 14-person commission will interview candidates to fill judicial vacancies in Marion County, then will recommend the three most qualified candidates to the governor, who will make the final selection. The commission also is responsible for making recommendations as to whether judges should be retained.
Members of the commission include:
• Justice Mark Massa, chair
• Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford, vice chair
• Billie Breaux, appointed by the Senate minority leader
• Bryce Carpenter, appointed by the Marion County Republican Party chair
• Lee Christie, appointed by the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association president
• Susan Cline, appointed by the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana president
• K. Michael Gaerte, appointed by the Indianapolis Bar Association president
• Rick Hurst, appointed by the Senate president pro tempore
• Katherine Jackson-Lindsay, appointed by the Marion County Bar Association president
• Lacy Johnson, appointed by the House minority leader
• Cordelia Lewis Burks, appointed by the Marion County Democratic Party chair
• Andrew Mallon, appointed by the Marion County Democratic Party chair
• Adrianne Slash, appointed by the Marion County Republican Party chair
• Jennifer Thuma, appointed by the Speaker of the House
Opponents of HEA 1036, including the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and the Marion County Bar Association, said the new judicial selection system unfairly targets minorities by removing their ability to vote for judges.
“I’m very disappointed in terms of how it worked out,” Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, told the Indiana Lawyer shortly after HEA 1036 was passed. “Why is it that merit selection exists only where you’ve got a high percentage of minorities?”
Randolph’s comments reference the fact that judicial selection panels exist in Allen, Lake, St. Joseph, and now Marion counties, where the highest populations of Hoosier minorities live. The Black Legislative Caucus has warned that the system set up under HEA 1036 could give rise to an equal protection or Voting Rights Act challenge.
But proponents of the commission, including the Indianapolis Bar Association, said the new commission will promote, rather than suppress, diversity in the Marion County judiciary.
“We have long supported a fair and well-reasoned merit selection process as the best way to ensure the continued high quality and diversity of the Superior Court bench,” the IndyBar said in an earlier statement. “We also believe that this legislative compromise will help maintain a strong, non-partisan judiciary that will benefit our community for years to come.”