Finalists for St. Joseph Superior Court resubmitted to Holcomb

Gov. Eric Holcomb has been presented a second time with the same slate of nominees to fill a vacancy on the St. Joseph Superior Court, potentially curing an injunction that had blocked the governor’s appointment after a local commission member sued, claiming two fellow members were ineligible.

The St. Joseph Superior Court Judicial Nominating Commission last week approved as finalists for appointment magistrate judges Andre Gammage and Elizabeth Hardtke; solo practitioner Jeffrey Kimball; Anderson Agostino & Keller attorney Stephanie Nemeth; and South Bend corporation counsel Stephanie Steele. Holcomb will appoint one of the finalists to succeed retiring St. Joseph Superior Judge Jane Woodward Miller on the bench in South Bend.

Those nominees’ names originally were submitted to Holcomb last September, but commission member Joseph Grabill sued, raising eligibility questions about two commission members. A judge hearing the case last month issued an injunction blocking Holcomb from making an appointment. That suit in Marshall Circuit Court is Grabill, et al. v. Holcomb, et al. 50C01-2012-PL-24. Judge Curtis Palmer has set a hearing for March 9 to hear motions pertaining to the litigation.

“Due to pending litigation … a quorum of eligible Commission members convened for an executive session and unanimously voted to confirm the same five nominees previously advanced to fill the judicial vacancy,” the Indiana Supreme Court said in a statement Thursday. “The participating five Commission members include Charles Leone, James (Jay) Lewis, Karen Barnett, Joseph Grabill, and Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff who serves as Commission Chairperson.”

Not included in last week’s meeting were the two members Grabill’s suit contends are ineligible to serve: David Anderson Hooker and Charles Lahey.

The resubmission of nominees came after the Indiana Supreme Court last week issued an order temporarily reappointing Woodward to the bench.

Meanwhile, the Indiana General Assembly is considering legislation that would fundamentally change the method of judicial nominations in St. Joseph and Lake counties, reducing or removing attorney representation from those commissions. The legislation is broadly opposed by local and state bar associations.

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