Massa letter gives Holcomb 60 days to pick 3 Marion Superior judges

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb now has 60 days to select three new Marion County judges after the committee created to interview judicial candidates formally submitted its recommendation of nine finalists to fill three upcoming Superior Court vacancies.

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa, writing on behalf of the Marion County Judicial Selection Committee, submitted the committee’s statutorily required letter concerning the nine finalists to Holcomb on Wednesday. The 14-member committee — created in 2017 to replace former slating election system voided by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals — met in late May to interview 40 applicants to fill the vacancies that will open when Democratic judges Becky Pierson-Treacy and Thomas Carroll and Republican Judge Michael Keele retire at the end of the year.

By statute, the committee must recommend three candidates to fill each judicial vacancy. Because three vacancies will open up this year, committee members were required to select nine finalists.

Holcomb, a Republican, has 60 days from Wednesday to select the three new judges. He is also in the midst of a 60-day period to select Indiana’s next Court of Appeals judge.

Here’s a look at the qualifications the Judicial Selection Committee identified in the nine finalists:

Candidates to replace Keele

Each of the three candidates named to fill Keele’s vacancy has a background in public defense work. Magistrate Jason Reyome, who currently presides over the recently created Initial Hearing Court, began his career at the Marion County Public Defender Agency while also co-founding a private firm that represented indigent and underserved clients. Reyome has conducted pro bono programs for refugees served by the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and has employed bilingual attorneys and paralegals to reach the Spanish-speaking community.

On the bench of the Initial Hearing Court, Reyome helped implement a new method and location where initial hearings can be held and search warrants can be processed for the major felony and misdemeanor courts, a change that Massa said has helped ease jail overcrowding. He is also a member of the Marion County Community Corrections Advisory Board and is a frequent lecturer on legal ethics and professionalism.

Like Reyome, Jennifer Harrison began her legal career as a Marion County public defender, handling cases ranging from misdemeanors to major felonies. Her career has included extensive litigation experience, Massa said, including six murder trials.

In 2017, the former public defender moved to Lewis and Wilkins and switched to civil litigation. Outside of the courtroom, Harrison is a board member of Drug Free Marion County and a graduate of the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series.

Unlike the other two candidates to replace Keele, Magistrate Geoffrey Gaither’s legal career began with a clerkship for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Gaither then worked as a solo practitioner and for both the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender Agency.

Gaither was appointed a juvenile magistrate judge in 1995 and has spent the ensuing years hearing juvenile delinquency cases, termination of parental rights cases and adoption matters. He is also the presiding judge of the Dual Status Court, which serves children involved in delinquency cases and Indiana Department of Child Services proceedings. Gaither also is a graduate of the Indiana Judicial College and is the founder of the Young Women’s Empowerment Conference and the Male Mentoring Conference.

Candidates to replace Pierson-Treacy

Magistrate Judge Marshelle Dawkins Broadwell has spent almost the entirety of her career in public service, beginning as a Marion County public defender before becoming a litigation attorney for the City of Indianapolis. Broadwell then spent one year in private practice before being named a master commissioner, and later a magistrate judge, in the Marion Superior Court. Her docket consists of domestic violence criminal cases, civil and domestic relations matters and custody disputes.

Broadwell’s legal involvement includes work with the Judicial Conference’s Protection Order Committee and the Indianapolis Bar Association. She is also an active volunteer for Boy Scouts of America, a position she uses to promote civic involvement.

Charnette Garner joined Indiana’s legal community after working in Missouri, where she was an assistant attorney general in that state’s Attorney General’s Office. Garner then returned to Indiana to work at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, where she became supervisor of the D Felony Division. She was recruited to the United States Attorney’s Office in 2014, but she returned to the MCPO in 2015 to become chief counsel.

Garner is heavily involved in bar associations, including the Marion County Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Association, as well as the National Black Prosecutors Association. She is also a member of the Pike Career and STEM Center’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board, which strives to help Marion County students better understand the criminal justice system.

After spending a short amount of time as a solo practitioner, Terrance Tharpe began working in the MCPO in 2004 and was eventually promoted to chief felony firearms prosecutor and assistant supervisor in the felony narcotics unit. Tharpe then served as a clerk for Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Rudolph Pyle before accepting his current position as staff counsel for GEICO.

Tharpe’s legal career began when he attended Indiana University Maurer School of Law as an Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity Fellow, and as an attorney he has served as president of the Marion County Bar Association. During his tenure as bar president, Tharpe guided the organization through the Midwest Black Law Student Annual Association regional conference, which it hosted in 2015.

Candidates to replace Carroll

The next person to hold Carroll’s seat on the bench will have some judicial experience, as each of the three finalists named to replace him currently serves as Marion County magistrate judges. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Marchal currently serves in the criminal and civil divisions of the Marion Superior Court, presiding over major felonies, domestic relations and civil collections cases. Before being named a master commission and magistrate judge, Marchal worked briefly for the Marion County Public Defender Agency before representing criminal defense, juvenile law, medical malpractice and general tort litigation at a private firm.

Marchal’s legal service involves multiple board memberships, including the Marion County Community Corrections Advisory Board, the Criminal Benchbook Committee and the Jury Committee. On the Jury Committee, Marchal serves as the only magistrate judge to have ever been appointed.

Magistrate Judge Mark Jones currently presides over a criminal and civil docket in the Marion Circuit Court. His prior work included time at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, a civil practice while at a private firm, and a stint as a staff attorney for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. Jones also returned to the MCPO to serve as the senior deputy and chief deputy prosecutor before ascending to the bench.

Like Marchal, Jones serves on multiple committees, including the Civil Benchbook Committee, the Marion County Court Technology Committee and the Indiana State Bar Association’s Grievance Committee, among others. He is also a community mentor and volunteer for organizations that serve local youth and ex-offenders re-entering society.

Magistrate Judge Danielle Gaughan’s judicial service began in 2002, when she was named a master commissioner in the Marion Superior Court after working in the Marion County Public Defender Agency. She was then named a magistrate judge in the juvenile division in 2007 and helped eliminate a backlog of 300-400 parental rights cases within a year. Her current caseload involves termination of parental rights and children in need of services cases involving roughly 700 children. 

Gaughan’s legal involvement includes work with several bar associations. She is also a member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Indiana, a position she uses to promote the importance of positive role models.

“I feel confident that all of the nominees are of a high caliber and would be a lasting credit to the Marion County Superior Court bench,” Massa said in closing the six-page letter.

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