The first of two days of interviews to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Indiana Court of Appeals is complete after the Indiana Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission spoke with three more applicants Monday afternoon.
The JNC interviewed eight of the 12 applicants to replace retiring Judge Michael Barnes on Monday, questioning them about their judicial philosophies, their thoughts on bar passage rates and their perspectives on judicial diversity. The JNC ended Monday with a two-hour, closed executive session, where the members — led by Chief Justice Loretta Rush — discussed which applicants will advance to the next round of interviews on May 16.
After the May interviews, the JNC will select three names to send to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will make the final appointment to replace retiring Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Michael Barnes. Here’s a look at the questions Monday afternoon’s candidates were asked to answer:
Magistrate Judge Jeanene Calabrese
While many applicants pointed to financial resources as among the biggest obstacles to justice for Indiana litigants, Starke County Magistrate Jeanene Calabrese identified an issue that, to her, is even more pressing — treatment options for drug offenders. Noting that it’s not uncommon for a drug offender who appears before her court to later die of an overdose, the magistrate judge said Indiana’s judiciary needs to reassess the way it treats addicts and develop programs that will support their rehabilitation. She also mused that if drugs and alcohol were no object, more than 90 percent of Indiana’s crimes would be eliminated.
Though she’s tried to promote drug rehabilitation efforts while on the trial court bench, Calabrese said she’s also found time to write thousands of bench orders. Of those orders, only 10 have been appealed, and all were affirmed. Given that experience, the Starke County magistrate said she’s prepared to step into an appellate role to determine if trial court orders correctly apply the law.
Though he’s never been a judge, Valparaiso attorney Brian Hurley told the JNC he has the experience necessary to serve as an effective appellate judge. His work has included cases from all practice areas, including personal injury, real estate, criminal litigation and more. Because of that varied experience, the attorney said he’s prepared to do the job of a COA judge — hearing all of the cases that come before the court, regardless of the facts or practice areas.
Despite not having been a judge, Hurley has gained judicial experience through his time as a law clerk for Court of Appeals Judge Wesley W. Ratliff from 1983 to 1984. Asked whether short-term clerkships such as his were more beneficial than long-term employment, Hurley said there’s a benefit to having a long-term clerk who knows a judge well. But if he were appointed to fill Barnes’ seat, the attorney also said he would go the more traditional route of hiring clerks for shorter periods of time.
Magistrate Judge Graham Polando
When St. Joseph Magistrate Judge Graham Polando isn’t on the bench, he can often be found participating in other legal activities, such as serving on the Indiana State Bar Association Ethics Committee. If appointed to the Court of Appeals, Polando said he doesn’t plan to end his involvement in the legal community. Instead, he said activities such as the Ethics Committee and inns of court are important for judges who want to stay plugged in to the Indiana judicial branch.
Aside from legal activities, Polando is also a prolific writer, penning articles and books on various legal topics, such as expungements or juvenile justice issues. Asked about authors he admires, Polando pointed to retired 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner as his literary inspiration. But the magistrate also said Posner’s later works often seemed petty, so he draws his inspiration from the judge’s earlier writings.
On Monday morning, the commission interviewed John Tuskey, Judge Steven Hostetler, Magistrate Judge Randy Coffey, Magistrate Judge Deborah Domine and David Van Gilder. Coverage of those interviews may be read here.
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