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Friday, October 26, 2012

Ind. Courts - State bar ass'n urges a "yes" vote for the two Supreme Court justices and four COA judges on Nov. ballot

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette today has an opinion piece from Erik Chickedantz, a Fort Wayne attorney, who is the outgoing president of the Indiana State Bar Association. Some quotes:

On Nov. 6, Hoosiers have the opportunity to vote on the retention of two Supreme Court justices and four Court of Appeals judges. A recent poll conducted by the Indiana State Bar Association showed that each received more than 80 percent support for retention by Indiana lawyers. These justices and judges each play a vital role in our judiciary. Each should be retained. * * *

[J]udicial independence can only be achieved when judges have the freedom to make decisions according to the law, without regard to political or public pressure.

And that pressure is what I write about today. * * *

Some members of the public have, unfortunately, reacted negatively to a single case in which one justice wrote the majority opinion and three of the other four justices joined. Of course, criticism and debate of judicial decisions are a vital part of America’s political and governmental discourse and are protected by the First Amendment. However, if our judiciary is to remain able to perform its constitutional functions without improper influences, it must be immune to attacks that seek to influence judicial decision-making. Punishing a judge over a single decision, a snapshot in time, if you will – as opposed to looking at the whole picture of that judge’s service – lowers the status of the judicial process and can send a chilling message to other justices and judges. Hoosiers deserve better.

An example of a snapshot evaluation involves [Justice Steven David], who wrote a single opinion, approved by 80 percent of the court, which has received some public criticism. Looking at the whole picture of David’s service compels retention. He has been a veritable workhorse on the court, a fierce defender of the rule of law, a champion of children and an unparalleled ambassador of the Supreme Court in promoting accessibility and transparency to the public.

The justices and appellate judges up for retention are respected jurists, consummate professionals and devoted public servants. They are true Hoosiers with Hoosier values. They have devoted their lives to upholding and defending our Constitution.

Our Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges must not be swayed by public pressure. They must maintain sole loyalty to the laws that govern us – only then can they preserve their impartiality.

These justices and judges must uphold the independence of the judiciary, even under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. For that they should be respected, not punished.

And for their service to Indiana, to the judiciary, to the public and to the rule of law, the justices and judges should be retained.

In addition, the Indiana State Bar Association website hosts an opinion piece by Prof. Joel M. Schumm, Indiana University McKinney School of Law, titled "All Six Judges Have Earned 'Yes' Votes for Retention":
Getting a large group of lawyers to agree on anything is no small task, so the poll that shows more than 80% of the state lawyers support the retention of the two Indiana Supreme Court justices and four Court of Appeals judges on the ballot in November is truly remarkable.

This overwhelming support for judges is not based on winning or losing cases but rather on the manner in which each judge approaches cases and treats the lawyers and litigants. I’ve had the privilege of arguing cases before all six of the judges and have lost more often than I’ve won. Nonetheless, I strongly support their retention because each has a respectful demeanor and proven record of impartiality, thoughtfulness, and hard work. Win or lose, litigants and lawyers know their cases were carefully and fairly considered before Justices David and Rucker and Judges Baker, Barnes, Mathias, and Vaidik.

Because judges make hundreds of decisions each year on a variety of difficult and controversial issues, sometimes a decision may cause a stir. Like some others, I took issue with parts of the Barnes decision written more than a year ago by Justice David. I raised those concerns in a friend‐of‐the‐court brief filed on behalf of a group of legislators. In response to that and other briefs, the Court issued an opinion that clarified the ruling, which help pave the way for the General Assembly to make modest changes to Indiana’s self‐defense statute after a great deal of discussion and debate. Whatever one’s opinion of the Barnes’ decision, that series of events demonstrates how each branch of government can appropriately exercise its role in resolving important issues.

Basing a retention vote on the Barnes decision—or any other single case—fails to consider the impressive and impactful work Justice David has done since joining the Court more than two years ago. Justice David has written or participated in more than a hundred Supreme Court oral arguments and opinions as well as deciding which of more than 1,000 Court of Appeals’ decisions the Supreme Court should review. He has taken an active role in helping to ensure that our system of justice is truly just through committees like the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), which works to minimize the detentions of juveniles that result in negative consequences both for public safety and youth development. He has served as an ambassador of the Court by speaking with students, community groups, and lawyers on literally hundreds of occasions.

Unlike the barrage of thirty second ads for political offices, little is written or broadcast about the judicial retention candidates. And in a “yes” or “no” contest, unfortunately a few vocal “no” advocates may dominate a discussion. When deciding whether to support a judge’s retention, taking a few minutes to review the retention website or talking with a lawyer familiar with the judges’ work can yield invaluable information. This information, not a decision in a single case, led the vast majority of the state bar members to support the retention of all six of the judges on the ballot.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 26, 2012 08:43 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts