« Courts - More on: Is it the Kentucky AG's duty to defend every law, or does he have discretion? | Main | Ind. Decisions - Transfer list for week ending March 14, 2014 »

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Money, politics and judges: Do judicial candidates pay to play?"

Marisa Kwiatkowski had the lead front-page story in the Sunday Indianapolis Star, 7 "pages" long if you read it online when I initially did, headlined "Money, politics and judges: Do judicial candidates pay to play?"

The first time I read the story, the "paged" online version, I had difficulty following it. Now there is a all-on-one-page version, here. In addition, there is now a video, giving a quite-good overview of the issues addressed in the story. Watch that first.

My initial problems were not with the story itself, written by a very good reporter, but with the medium. Technical issues, hindering reader comprehension, are now resolved. Still, it seems, and this also may be a problem with the medium, the story tried to cover too much ground in one big gulp.

The story looks at the issue of the "slating fees" required of candidates for judicial official in Marion County who are seeking party endorsement in the primary. It questions whether this is "pay to play" and points to a now pending federal lawsuit.

The story looks at how the judicial candidates selected in the slating conventions and then elected in the primary nearly always prevail in the general election: "Since 2006, every candidate who won in Marion County's primary election ultimately took the bench. In most general elections, there are the same number of judicial candidates on the ballot as there are openings."

The story also looks at the way judges are selected in Marion County compared with the judicial selection systems for St. Joe and Lake Counties, which have statutory "merit" selection systems similar to the way appellate court judges are selected in Indiana. In these systems, the judge is ultimately selected by the Governor, from nominations submitted by a commission.

Other issues also are touched on. But there is little discussion of the way judges are selected in most of Indiana's 92 counties, which is by popular vote in the general election. Nor is there comparison of the pros and cons of popular election versus appointment of judges.

A quibble, the story says "State legislators created Marion County's system of electing judges in 2006." True, that is when the law was changed to eliminate the "odd-man out" rule. But Marion County certainly did not have general elections that could be considered competitive before the 2006 change.

The ILB looked into some of the details of Marion County judicial slating in this Jan. 10th post.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2014 09:24 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts