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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Three St. Joseph Superior Court judges are up for a retention vote on the Nov. 6 ballot"

Thus begins an endorsement editorial in the Oct. 27th South Bend Tribune:

Voters will be asked to decide whether Judge Jerome Frese, Judge Jenny Pitts Manier and Judge Margot Reagan each should stay on the bench for six more years.

St. Joseph and Lake counties are the only two counties in Indiana whose Superior Court judges are chosen through a merit system rather than elected. Judges are nominated by a committee of lawyers and citizens with the final choice made by the governor. Voters then decide every six years whether to retain them.

The process has been challenged from time to time. The latest, in 2009, ended with Gov. Mitch Daniels vetoing a bill to force nonpartisan election of all Superior Court judges. He concluded that St. Joseph County's process is a model that should be emulated, not discarded.

The downside, however, is that voters don't learn much about the judges. They don't campaign. They aren't forced to face an opponent and defend their records. And comparing judges one to another based on outcomes is difficult because of the complexity of cases.

No judge has failed a retention vote since the system was put in place in 1973.

The editorial continues:
The most valuable tool that most voters have is the St. Joseph County Bar Association's annual judicial survey.

Judicial performance is rated in various categories by attorneys who work with them every day. This year's survey results, released in September, overall ranked Frese "below average." It was the first such rating of a judge since the survey began in 2008.

Pitts Manier's overall score was higher than the above average score and Reagan's higher than average.

The details of the bar association survey represent the best resource many voters will have in deciding the retention questions. Read it online under election coverage at our website.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 31, 2012 02:53 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts