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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Retention election lets voters decide whether to keep, dump judges" [Updated]

Updating this ILB entry from Oct. 3rd, Dan Carden reports today on Indiana's state and local retention election. Some quotes:

Retention elections are the only opportunity for voters to have a say in who serves on the state's supreme and appellate courts.

In 1970, Hoosiers amended the Indiana Constitution to eliminate direct election of state court judges and decided that lawyers and judges seeking to serve on a state court must apply and be interviewed by a seven-member nominating commission, a process known as "merit selection."

That panel then recommends three finalists to the governor who appoints one to the bench. After serving for two years, the justice or judge must stand for retention and let voters decide if he or she has earned a 10-year term.

Lake and St. Joseph counties use a similar merit selection process to pick their judges, who must run for retention every six years. The judges in Indiana's 90 other counties and in Illinois are elected. * * *

The two Indiana Supreme Court justices seeking retention this year are Justice Robert Rucker and Justice Steven David. They are on the ballot statewide.

Rucker, 65, is a Gary native who has served on the state's high court since 1999 after prevailing in a 2002 retention election. A victory this year would keep Rucker, a former Court of Appeals judge, on the bench until he hits the mandatory retirement age of 75.

David, 55, is running in his first retention election following his 2010 appointment by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. He is best known for writing the controversial Barnes v. State ruling that said Hoosiers never have a right to resist police, even if an officer is acting unlawfully.

That 2011 decision prompted Statehouse protests with many in attendance demanding Hoosiers vote against retaining David. However, aside from a few roadside signs and an online rant by the Indianapolis Tea Party, there appears to be no organized opposition to David's retention.

Justices and judges are only allowed to campaign for retention if there is organized opposition. David has so far remained silent on his retention bid, perhaps confident knowing no state court judge has ever lost a retention election.

Five Court of Appeals judges are up for retention this year but only three come from appeals court districts that cover Northwest Indiana. All three were appointed to the appellate court in 2000 by Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon and each won retention in 2002.

[Updated at 3:00 PM] As a reader writes to point out, and as the ILB wrote in this June 21st entry, four, not five, Court of Appeals judges are up for retention this year:
Four members of the Court of Appeals must stand for retention in order to continue in office: Judges John G. Baker, Michael P. Barnes, Nancy H. Vaidik and Paul D. Mathias. Judge Martha B. Wentworth of the Tax Court is not yet eligible to stand for a 10-year term because she took office 1/17/11. (The other new COA-level judges, Cale J. Bradford and Elaine B. Brown, stood for retention in 2010.)

BTW, although the Supreme Court justices standing for retention will be on ballots statewide, for the Court of Appeals judges, only Judge Vaidik will be on every ballot statewide; Baker will only be on 1st district ballots and Barnes and Mathias will only be on 3rd district ballots. (The districts are explained here on the COA website.)

Here is the Court's official 2012 Retention Website.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 7, 2012 10:54 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts