Saturday, March 23, 2013
Ind. Courts - More on: Questions about vacancies on the St. Joseph Superior Court
Updating this ILB entry from March 20th, which reported that a question had been raised as to whether the St. Joe Nominating Commission could send lists including the same three names to the Governor for two different Superior Court vacancies. Last evening reporter Madeline Buckley posted on the South Bend Tribune webpage this story addressing the question:
After The Tribune reported Wednesday that three attorneys made the list of finalists for both bench openings, readers questioned whether this was legal.[More] The SBT allows comments to its stories; there was only this one posted when the ILB checked this morning:
Several people called and e-mailed, citing a portion of Indiana code that says the nominating commission must send the government five separate finalists in the event of two judicial vacancies.
The law reads: “If there are existing at the same time two (2) or more vacancies on the court, the commission shall nominate and submit to the governor a list of five (5) different persons for each of the vacancies.”
But the commission says the choice to select three of the same people for both lists is compliant with the law.
Kathryn Dolan, spokeswoman for the Indiana Supreme Court who speaks for the commission, said because neither Chamblee or Scopelitis have left the bench, the benches are not vacated.
“Technically, there isn’t a vacancy until a judge actually leaves,” Dolan said.
By the time Chamblee retires, Scopelitis will still have another couple months on the bench, meaning the vacancies are not simultaneous.
The list of finalists for Chamblee’s bench will essentially be dissolved if the governor appoints a successor to that bench before Scopelitis actually vacates his seat.
Dolan said if one of the three overlapping candidates is chosen to replace Chamblee, the commission will send the governor another candidate to potentially replace Scopelitis.
The part of the law referenced here comes into play when there are two or more benches with no sitting judge, for example if two judges resigned unexpectedly.
Dolan said the commission is working proactively to enable the governor to select a judge to replace the retiring judge right away.
“We want to have a smooth transition and no time period where there is no judge,” Dolan said.
Thus, the governor receives the list of finalists before a vacancy occurs when possible.
Dolan said the three attorneys who are on both lists separately applied and were interviewed for both positions.
In addition to Gammage, Sanford and Hurley, in the running for Scopelitis’ bench are Steven L. Hostetler and Mark F. James.
Also on the list for Chamblee’s bench are Mary Catherine Andres and Scott Duerring.
Doug Allen Bernacchi · Top Commenter · Georgetown University
"Two pending vacancies at the same time" are substantively different from "two vacancies at the same time." Depends on what the definition of "is" is, remember that one? Semantics or clearly what the legislature intended? Come on...; We upstate hoosiers might have been born in the day, but we weren't born yesterday! A vacancy or pending vacancy requiring the St. Joseph County Judicial Nominating Commission to meet again is another "vacancy," period. It walks like a duck, right? I want to respect the process. If you ask me, there should be two separate lists of 5 nominees totally 10 candidates for 2 vacancies not 7 for two vacancies (and The Governor deserves and should demand his rights), or we just let the voters vote on it. When there is a problem fix it. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. just saying. Sorry, I care.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 23, 2013 10:18 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts