The Indiana Supreme Court is enabling Knox County courts to call upon senior judges and local judges pro tempore to fill the vacancy created by the sudden death of Judge Ryan Johanningsmeier.
Knox Circuit Judge Sherry Gregg Gilmore and Knox Superior Judge Gara Lee had sought emergency relief to handle the ongoing business in Johanningsmeier’s former court, Knox Superior Court 2.
The Supreme Court, in an order issued Tuesday, found an emergency does exist and granted Gilmore and Lee the ability to exercise general jurisdiction over Superior Court 2 matters until Gov. Eric Holcomb appoints a pro tempore judge. Also, Gilmore and Lee may appoint judges pending further action by either the governor or the Supreme Court.
Johanningsmeier, who was first elected to the Knox County bench in 2014, was running unopposed in the November 2020 general election.
The Knox County Republican Party has started the process to fill the ballot vacancy, according to Knox County Clerk David Shelton.
Interested attorneys in the county can apply for the position, as well as file a declaration of candidacy, with the Indiana Election Commission and a statement of economic interest with the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications by 5 p.m. Friday. The four officers of the local Republican Party will interview the candidates Sept. 8 and 9, then make a selection and notify the Indiana Secretary of State Election Division on Sept. 10.
Shelton said the Republican Party is moving quickly because of the looming deadline to get the absentee ballots printed with the new candidate’s name and in the mail by Sept. 19. He would have liked to have left the Johanningsmeier’s name on the ballot to give the judge another election win, but he described Johanningsmeier as a “go-go-go person” who would have wanted the county to move forward.
Johanningsmeier was killed Aug. 29 when the single-engine plane he was flying crashed in southeastern Illinois. The 2000 graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law started the county’s drug court, which today has 50 participants and more than 100 graduates.
Shelton said the judicial candidates who helped and supported the drug court program will be given special consideration. The drug court was “immensely successful,” Shelton said. “It kept people out of jail and helped save lives and souls.”