Monday, November 05, 2012
Ind. Courts - Still more on "ACLU of Indiana Challenges Marion County Judicial Election System"
Updating this ILB entry from Nov. 2nd, here are several more items of interest:
- A Nov. 3rd editorial in the Indianapolis Star, headed "Find fairer system to choose judges."
The ACLU of Indiana's lawsuit in opposition to Marion County's deeply flawed system for electing Superior Court judges is long overdue.
In a peculiar arrangement that only a party boss could love, Democrats and Republicans work together to divvy up the court's 20 judgeships ahead of the May primary. Democrats nominate 10 judges; Republicans nominate 10 as well. All of the nominees are then assured of winning the general election in November, barring the unlikelihood of a successful bid by a third-party candidate.
Defenders of the system, which is actually written into state law, argue that general election voters aren't informed enough to make intelligent choices about who should serve as judges in Marion County. The cynicism of that argument aside, it could be applied with equal accuracy to other low-profile offices such as county clerk, auditor, coroner and surveyor. Should party insiders take over from voters the responsibility of filling those posts as well?
Spare us also the arguments that voters get their say in the primary and that the law somehow filters partisanship from the selection process. Democratic and Republican insiders anoint their favorites ahead of the primary, and although it's possible for outsiders to challenge the favored candidates, it's a high obstacle to overcome. So, again, in all reality, it's the local party chairmen and their allies who fill the posts in Marion County's Superior Court.
So what's the solution? If voters truly can't be relied upon to make good choices on their own, then the General Assembly should change the law to set up an appointment model in which an independent panel nominates qualified candidates. The governor would then appoint the judges, which is how appellate and Indiana Supreme Court vacancies are filled.
As the system stands, the ACLU's lawsuit, brought on behalf of Common Cause Indiana, has strong merit. It's too late, of course, to fix the process for this week's elections, but it requires a drastic overhaul before another Election Day arrives.
- A 2007 challenge to a somewhat similar system in New York State that failed in the SCOTUS. The case is New York State Board of Elections v. Torres.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 5, 2012 08:39 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts