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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ind. Courts - St. Joe bar survey "helps voters judge the judges"

From an Oct. 7th editorial in the South Bend Tribune:

The community’s best general assessment of St. Joseph County’s Superior Court judges’ performance — the St. Joseph County Bar Association’s judicial survey — is out. Voters should take the time to peruse it.

St. Joseph is one of only two counties in the state whose Superior Court judges are chosen through a merit selection system, rather than elected by voters. 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. Although there have been calls to change the way our judges are chosen, the merit system has remained in place. In 2009, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels vetoed a bill to force non-partisan election of Superior Court judges, noting that St. Joe County’s merit model is “to be emulated, not discarded.”

Of course, the drawback to the merit system is that voters don’t have much information about the judges who are up for retention to decide whether they’re doing a good job. There’s no campaigning, and judges aren’t forced to defend their records. And the complexity of cases makes comparing judges based on case outcomes problematic.

Which makes the St. Joseph County Bar Association’s annual survey so valuable to voters. Members of the association score the eight Superior Court judges in several categories on a rating scale of 1 to 5. Categories include legal abilities, professionalism and integrity. The survey was posted online Monday.

The St. Joseph Superior Court judges up for a retention vote this year, Jane Woodward Miller, John Marnocha and David Chapleau, scored on average above a 3.5 in all categories. Whether they serve for another six years will be determined by voters. Make your vote a more informed one by viewing the results of the 2014 survey at http://sjcba.org/judicial-survey.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 14, 2014 09:19 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts