St. Joe JNC names new finalist to succeed Reagan after previous finalist appointed to bench

A new finalist has been submitted to the governor to fill an upcoming vacancy on the St. Joseph Superior Court after a previous finalist was selected for a different judicial position.

The St. Joseph Superior Court Judicial Nominating Commission announced Friday that Stephanie Nemeth is now a finalist to fill the vacancy that will occur when Judge Margot Reagan retires next month. Nemeth replaces Stephanie Steele, who earlier this month was named to succeed now-Senior Judge Jane Woodward Miller.

Steele, formerly South Bend corporation counsel, was named a finalist to fill both Miller and Reagan’s seats. After Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed her as Miller’s successor, Steele withdrew her name from the second panel of nominees, according to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The St. Joseph JNC was then tasked by statute with submitting the name of a replacement finalist. Nemeth, an attorney with Anderson Agostino & Keller, had also been a finalist for Miller’s seat before Steele was selected.

The JNC met in executive session Friday to select the replacement finalist. The new panel of finalists will be sent to Holcomb, who will then have 60 days to make a selection.

The St. Joe JNC has been under a spotlight this year as the Indiana Legislature considered a bill to change the composition of the judicial nominating commissions in Lake and St. Joseph counties. That bill, House Bill 1453, was passed by the General Assembly but at IL deadline had not been signed by legislative leaders or sent to Holcomb.

The St. Joseph JNC was also the subject of a lawsuit brought by one of its members, who claimed two commission members were ineligible to serve. Those two members — nonlawyer member David Anderson Hooker and lawyer member Charles Lahey — have since been disqualified, leaving just five members of the commission for now.

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