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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ind. Courts - A Day in Lake County for Judicial Nominating Commission Interviews

Commentary by Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law

After observing scores of interviews for Indiana Supreme Court justices before the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) in 2010 and 2012 and co-teaching a seminar on judicial selection with Judge Tim Oakes, I was interested in seeing the commission process for a superior court vacancy. Fortunately, the Lake County Judicial Nominating Commission met yesterday and is meeting again today to fill the vacancy in Civil Room 4, so I headed to Crown Point for the day.*

Some Key Differences

Although there are many similarities in the Lake County and Indiana JNC processes, a few differences stood out.

Questions Posted

The questions covered a wide range of topics. The lay members, however, seemed to ask far fewer questions than the lawyer members. Lay members asked roughly the same number of questions as lawyer members in most Indiana JNC interviews, while the percentage in Lake County seemed more like 75/25 or even 80/20. Tom Dabertin was the most active lay member questioner and frequently asked about the importance of management skills for a trial judges while noting that some have no employee handbook and one thought the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) did not apply to employees. Other common questions touched on:

Most of the interviews ran on or slightly ahead of schedule with Justice Rucker as a strict enforcer of time. There was no red light in the room, but every applicant was given an opportunity with 30 or 60 seconds to wrap up before the interview concluded. Most were respectful of the time limit; those who were not received a polite “thank you,” sometimes mid-sentence, from Justice Rucker when they had exceeded the limit.

High Points, Low Points, and a Few Recommendations

The quality of the interview responses ranged widely, but I thought the applicants with judicial experience were generally the best at answering questions directly and succinctly while demonstrating a nuanced and thoughtful understanding of the functioning of Room 4 and the proper role for the new judge. Magistrates Raduenz and Pagano were especially strong.

Some of the other interviews were disappointing, especially when applicants showed little thought in answering the very predictable opening question from Justice Rucker about why they would like to be a judge in Room 4.

A few (unsolicited) recommendations for applicants:Interviews continue until about 2:00 today following by public deliberations and voting of the Commission.
*Judge Oakes made the trek with me. The views expressed in this post are mine alone.

Members of the Lake County Judicial Nominating Commission interviewing Andrew Kraemer on July 1, 2014

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 2, 2014 02:06 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts | Schumm - Commentary