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Monday, October 11, 2010

Ind. Courts - "Five appellate judges up for election, no campaigning"

The Terre Haute Tribune-Star ran this story by Maureen Haydeen (CNHI) yesterday, and the Gary Post-Tribune has the same story today (crediting the Anderson Herald Bulletin).

Early voting has been going on here in Marion County for a week already, but the story is still relevant for those who haven't voted yet.

Some quotes:

The candidates are five judges on the 15-member Indiana Court of Appeals up for a retention vote in the Nov. 2 general election. Like their colleagues in the state’s appellate courts — including the Indiana Supreme Court — they were appointed to their positions but must earn the support of voters to stay there.

But you won’t see bumper stickers or yard signs soliciting votes for L. Mark Bailey, Cale J. Bradford, Elaine B. Brown, Melissa S. May or Margret G. Robb — the five Court of Appeals judges up for retention.

According to state law, judges who are candidates for retention are not permitted to campaign or solicit public support or campaign funds unless there is organized opposition to their retention.

Unlike in some states — including Illinois, Iowa and Colorado where appellate-level judges up for retention this November are targets of well-financed campaigns to oust them — no organized opposition has emerged so far in Indiana.

It likely won’t, predicts court observer Joel Schumm, a clinical professor of law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and director of its Judicial Externship Program.

“I think most voters in Indiana assume they’re doing a good job and will vote to retain them,” Schumm said.

That’s been the trend. There’s been no election since a 1970 voter-approved constitutional amendment ushered in the appointment/retention system in which an Indiana appellate judge lost his or her seat. * * *

The candidates are five judges on the 15-member Indiana Court of Appeals up for a retention vote in the Nov. 2 general election. Like their colleagues in the state’s appellate courts — including the Indiana Supreme Court — they were appointed to their positions but must earn the support of voters to stay there.

But you won’t see bumper stickers or yard signs soliciting votes for L. Mark Bailey, Cale J. Bradford, Elaine B. Brown, Melissa S. May or Margret G. Robb — the five Court of Appeals judges up for retention.

According to state law, judges who are candidates for retention are not permitted to campaign or solicit public support or campaign funds unless there is organized opposition to their retention.

Unlike in some states — including Illinois, Iowa and Colorado where appellate-level judges up for retention this November are targets of well-financed campaigns to oust them — no organized opposition has emerged so far in Indiana.

It likely won’t, predicts court observer Joel Schumm, a clinical professor of law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and director of its Judicial Externship Program.

“I think most voters in Indiana assume they’re doing a good job and will vote to retain them,” Schumm said.

That’s been the trend. There’s been no election since a 1970 voter-approved constitutional amendment ushered in the appointment/retention system in which an Indiana appellate judge lost his or her seat.

In response to a push in 2007 by Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, to give voters more information about the retention process, the Division of State Court Administration created a website, courts.IN.gov/retention.

The website offers biographical information on each judge, as well as links to their court decisions, and video clips of selected oral arguments over which the judges presided.

ILB: Not to appear unduly testy, but the ILB believes it paved the way.

Some background: In 2005 I published an article ("Voting to Retain or Reject Indiana Judges and Justices," 49 Res Gestae 3 (Oct. 2005), pp. 21-23) that caused something of a stir in the Statehouse. Here are some quotes:

During the 2005 session, the Indiana Senate considered a proposal to amend Article 7 of the Indiana Constitution to require that the Governor’s nominee to an appellate court be subject to confirmation by a majority of the Senate. After ten years, under this proposal, the justice or judge again would come before the Senate for retention. A favorable vote of 40% of the members of the Senate would assure retention. * * *

Although I disagree with Senator Young’s proposed amendment, I believe there is merit in his contention that voters need information about judges’ records in order to make informed decisions. I can attest, albeit via anecdotal evidence, that this is not for lack of trying on the part of some citizens.

In last November's election, Judge John T. Sharpnack was up for another 10-year term. In the week before the election, the hits to the Indiana Law Blog tripled. Interested to find out why, I looked at my site's statistics. Almost all the extra hits were the result of search engine inquiries for various variations of the name "Judge Sharpnack." My interpretation: These were voters who wanted to find out more about the Judge so that they could cast intelligent votes.

My own experience is that locating information, even on when an Indiana judge or justice will be on the ballot, is time-consuming. The generally excellent Indiana Courts site has information, in the judges’ and justices’ biographies, about when they were initially appointed. But after that, people apparently are on their own. * * *

Back to the question of how is a voter to acquire information to help in deciding whether a judge or justice should be retained? Without such information, all would agree, the retention process is meaningless.

In September of 2006 the ILB created and posted the first Judicial Retention Website in Indiana, which has served as a model for those that followed. (Note: The link to the ILB's 2006 Retention Website is no longer active.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 11, 2010 09:50 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts