Lake Superior magistrate judges Kathleen Belzeski and Nanette Raduenz are being described by the local legal community as best qualified for the vacancy in Lake Superior Court, family law division.
A total of 13 candidates applied for the seat that opened when Judge Elizabeth Tavitas was appointed to the Indiana Court of Appeals. The Lake County Judicial Nomination Committee began the selection process Tuesday with the interviews of the applicants. The committee will recommend three individuals to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will choose one to fill the vacancy.
In advance of the interviews, the Lake County Bar Association conducted an online survey of the more than 1,000 attorneys living or practicing in Lake County. Two hundred seventy-three completed the survey, making the participation rate 27 percent.
The survey asked the legal community to anonymously rate the applicants on legal ability, demeanor, court administration/practice management, and impartiality as well as their overall rating as a judicial candidate. The ratings ranged from exceptionally well qualified to not qualified. A summary of the survey for each candidate can be found here.
Raduenz, a magistrate in Tavitas’ former court, Lake Superior Court, Civil Division 3, and Belzeski, who is a magistrate in Lake Superior Court, County Division 2, were ranked either first or second in each category. Both ranked tied for first in the overall rating category.
Thomas Hallett, also a magistrate judge in Tavitas’ former court, and Katherine Garza, magistrate of Lake Superior Court, Juvenile Division, were ranked third and fourth respectively.
The bar association stressed that the survey was not a popularity contest. Rather, the association stated it believes that attorneys as officers of the court have an obligation to the sitting judges, lawyers seeking the bench, and the public to identify and rate judicial qualities.
These objectives, the association continued, are consistent with an attorney’s duty to promote fairness and access to justice, as well as evaluate the quality of our courts.
The other applicants are: Lisa A. Berdine, Daniel Wayne Burke, Jr., Robert J. Harkins, Kristen D. Hill, Gina L. Jones, Amy Louise Jorgensen, Joshua Steven Mahler, Frank Richard Piper Martinez, III, and Stacy J. Vasilak.