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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012 - Report on the first 3 interviews

This is Prof. Schumm's report on the first three semi-finalist interviews

The Chief Justice opened the morning by commenting on the high caliber of applicants, including Ms. Seigel. He then asked her to respond to the two standard questions for “a few minutes to begin the conversation.” [Note: some applicants in 2010 spent much of their interview time on the standard questions instead of addressing those questions relatively briefly and then allowing for a “conversation” addressing questions from the Commissioners.]

Ms. Jane Seigel, Indianapolis (photo) (application)

Ms. Seigel responded that her finest professional accomplishment was her legacy—what she would want to be remembered for—namely, efforts in criminal justice reform, specifically problem-solving courts, including drug courts, re-entry courts, mental health courts, and veteran’s courts. The Judicial Center is nationally recognized for its certification process for problem-solving courts.

As to improvements to the judiciary, Ms. Seigel noted this was one of the charges for Judicial Center. She focused on two areas “near and dear to [her] heart.” First, she would prioritize state funding, especially for probation. The State is responsible for the standards for probation but counties must currently fund it. Second, she focused on services for keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system. She commented that “tremendous things” can happen when a justice lends their name to a project.

Mr. McDonald asked about the value of gender diversity of the Court. Ms. Seigel responded there was a lot of value, which was shared by many in the judiciary. She pointed to the ICLEO program, the Race and Gender Fairness Commission, and other initiatives. Diversity “adds a richness to the dialogue” and gives greater confidence to the system when those leading it look like those in the public. She has a daughter who is a first year law student, and she wants her and her female friends to believe there are no barriers for them to do anything they seek to do. If selected, Ms. Seigel hopes it would be because of her abilities—not her gender.

Mr. McCashland asked about her “moral ethics” and how she would handle a case that “goes against her moral ethics.” Seigel responded that she hopes her ethics “line up with the law.” He asked if she would have “any problem working with four men” and then looked at the Chief Justice. To laughter, the Chief said, “Don’t look at me,” because he’s leaving. Seigel responded she had worked a great deal with the four men remaining on the Court and would enjoy working even further with them.

In response to Mr. Winningham’s question about “judicial philosophy,” Ms. Seigel paused a bit…said that was a “good question,” and then talked about “fairness” and “judging each case individually.” She also emphasized “applying the plain meaning of the statute” and “consistency.”

In response to a question from Ms. Northernor about the “most challenging ethical challenge” she has faced in her work with the Judicial Center, Ms. Seigel responded that judges sometimes “stray from the judicial canons” and lauded the work of the Qualifications Commission in providing guidance. She said she was most “disturbed” by judges using their authority in ways that undermine the public’s confidence in the system.

Mr. Ulmer asked a follow up question about how the system “treats kids.” Ms. Seigel explained the Child in Need of Services emphasis on abuse and neglect but that some children enter through the delinquency system through related issues. At some point we may “need to start from scratch” in reforming the system.

Ms. Kitchell asked about Ms. Seigel’s role in writing and her writing samples, which is often collaborative. Ms. Seigel responded she is a “significant editor” and that her office likes to have “three sets of eyes” on everything before it goes out of door. Ms. Seigel said she now has a “significant amount of help” in some writing projects now that she has many other duties.

Hon. Maria Granger, Indianapolis (photo) (application)

Judge Granger explained her finest legal accomplishment has been her “service as a trial judge.” She noted the “unique opportunity” to create a court based on integrity and respect. The court was created to respond to the growth of case filings in Floyd County, and it was important to operate the court as efficiently as possible. In a two month period after election, she needed to hire staff and develop procedures, especially regarding self-represented litigants. She noted that she participated in last year’s Law School for Journalists about sentencing and the importance of helping journalists and the public better understand sentencing and the court system. Her court hears a variety of cases and she is able to “impact the lives of every day citizens” in each type of cases. She “does her own research and writing” as a judge and enjoys delving into the complexity of the law.

She identified two reforms to the judicial system as (1) “safeguarding access to justice” and (2) developing “meaningful approaches to sentencing.” Centralizing and equalizing funding would help ensure an equitable distribution so litigants with the least and the most have the same opportunities. She emphasized the importance of pursuing other funding options. Second, Judge Granger noted it costs $53.96/day to house an offender, and less costly alternatives must be further considered. Tools such as risk assessment can help better make a determination of which offenders are more appropriate for alternatives to prison. She would focus on expanding veterans’ courts, which allows the use of federal funds that are not available for some other problem-solving courts. The Chief Justice responded this was a “great list.”

The Chief Justice asked about the “extra time” Judge Granger has put into debt-collection cases, and Judge Granger noted she has trained her staff to look carefully at those cases to make sure the real party in interest has been named and there is a legitimate basis for the debt.

Mr. McDonald asked about the importance of “gender diversity.” Judge Granger responded that diversity enriches our institutions and our lives. Her participation on the ICLEO board for the past five years has allowed her to help ensure the legal profession is more diverse. Her background growing up in Washington, Indiana has helped her better to understand the impact of the law on others.

Ms. Northernor again read, as she had in the first round, from Judge Granger’s letter about the “role of judges,” including respect for precedent and the need to interpret and not make the law. Ms. Northernor then asked about her “most challenging ethical dilemma” and how it was addressed. Judge Granger noted that she funded much of her own judicial campaign and limited contributions to small amounts.

In response to a question from Mr. Ulmer, Judge Granger emphasized the importance of putting her personal feelings aside and upholding the law, whether she agrees or disagrees with it.

Mr. Winningham asked Judge Granger to identify a couple of civil issues she has had to decide during her three years on the bench. She discussed a zoning case involving a biomass plant on which she was appointed as special judge. Without concern for the “politics” of the matter, she found the zoning commission’s decision should be reversed. Second, in sentencing matters, she emphasized the importance of applying the appropriate aggravating and mitigating factors in reaching a decision.

Ms. Kitchell asked about a professional experience Judge Granger would do differently if she had the opportunity. After a pause and noting it was a “good question,” Judge Granger noted the need to leave the prosecutor’s office and hang out her own shingle, which was challenging, for the flexibility necessary to address the challenge of being a single parent.

Mr. McCashland asked what Judge Granger would like to do if she was not a judge. Judge Granger loves music, which “nurtures what is inside a person,” and she would perform or teach music if not a lawyer.

Mr. Steven Schultz, Indianapolis (photo) (application)

Mr. Schultz began by noting his professional accomplishments have largely been part of a team. He explained his admission to practice of the law in 1989, the first member of the family to be a lawyer. That experience provides the basis for all the later professional accomplishments, including his work with Governor Daniels as chief counsel, his work with Irwin Bank and its importance to the community, and finally helping to lead the Ohio Rivers Bridges Project from forty years of wandering to the banks of the “promised land.”

As to two reforms, Mr. Schultz first emphasized moving toward a more unified and simplified trial court system. The strategic plan described the problem well, and Mr. Schultz’s work at Irwin and with Governor Daniels allowed him to reform and change systems for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Second, he cited the importance of moving toward a paperless system for court documents. The ability to file cases electronically, as in the federal system that also allows reasonable accommodations for those without internet access, are well worth pursuing and would be more efficient for lawyers and provide greater access to the public. The Chief Justice thanked Mr. Schultz for the “very thoughtful answer.”

The Chief Justice asked about the role of courts in economic development. Mr. Schultz emphasized the importance of “stability” in the legal system to aid investment and economic development decisions. He emphasized the importance of “judicial restraint” and not “legislating from the bench” to bring economic development.

Mr. McDonald asked the importance of gender diversity, and Mr. Schultz noted it was an important consideration but not the “only type of diversity.” Mr. Schultz emphasized his background , which would complement and add a new perspective to the Court. Specifically he mentioned his work in the private sector, government, and internationally.

Ms. Kitchell asked if Mr. Schultz would have done a professional experience differently if he had the chance. He acknowledged his practice background was different from the attorney members of the Commission. Mr. Schultz would have been a more active member of the bar association, which he did not do because of the transactional nature of his practice. Mr. Winningham followed up with a question about the opportunities for interacting with lawyers and judges through the bar associations, and Mr. Schultz noted the opportunities for interaction through law firm practice and the opportunities to interact with the judiciary through his work as counsel to the Governor.

In response to a question from Mr. McCashland about his educational experience, Mr. Schultz emphasized the mentor relationship some of his professors at Butler provided. He most enjoyed the research and writing opportunities.

Mr. McDonald asked about the status on the roll of attorneys, which showed a gap in active status before 2003. Mr. Schultz responded he was unaware of it and believes this may have occurred because of failure to timely return registration paperwork after his family returned to the United States from London.

Mr. Winningham asked about a writing sample that discussed the unfunded mandate nature of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Mr. Schultz responded the Act was of enormous benefit and important to civil rights.

Mr. Schultz returned to the diversity of prior work experience in an effective conclusion to the interview.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 23, 2012 10:30 AM
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012