Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has named Lake Superior Judge Elizabeth Tavitas as the next member of the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Holcomb made the announcement on Thursday, nearly two months after the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission submitted a letter to him detailing the qualifications of the three finalists selected to replace now-Senior Judge Michael Barnes: Tavitas, St. Joseph Superior Judge Steven Hostetler and Fort Wayne attorney David C. Van Gilder. The three finalists were selected from a pool of 12 applicants whom the JNC interviewed in April and May.
Praising the quality of each of the three finalists, Holcomb said selecting Tavitas was neither easy nor quick because Hostetler and Van Gilder would have also served “admirably” on the COA. Tavitas was ultimately selected because of her knowledge of the federal and state constitutions, her sound legal reasoning and her respect for litigants.
Holcomb had specific praise for Tavitas’ work with families in crisis and access to justice issues. Since becoming a juvenile court referee in 1998, the governor said Tavitas has spent the last 20 years serving families and children in need. He also praised her as an innovative jurist, noting she launch a pro bono clinic and a low-cost mediation program to provide greater access to the courts for low-income litigants.
For her part, Tavitas, a graduate of Notre Dame Law School, said she can never hope to truly replace Barnes, calling him a “giant” on the court. However, she said she will bring a respect for the rule of law and her 20 years of judicial experience to her new role on the state’s second highest court.
Judge John Baker welcomed Tavitas to the COA on behalf of Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik, who is out of the country. Also at the announcement was COA Judge Margret Robb, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush, who led the JNC’s search for Barnes’ replacement, and Justice Geoffrey Slaughter.
Read more about Tavitas’ appointment to the COA bench in the July 25 issue of Indiana Lawyer.