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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ind. Courts - Assuring transparency in the appellate judicial selection process

On March 2, 2015 the Supreme Court announced that applications for an upcoming vacancy on the Court of Appeals of Indiana were due by April 27, 2015, and that:

The Commission will conduct initial public interviews of qualified candidates on May 20-22 in Indianapolis, followed by second interviews on June 10.
On April 27th the Court issued a news release with the 8 applicants' names, plus the statement:
The applicant names are public record. The actual applications are public record if the candidate is interviewed, see IC 33-27-3-2(d)(1). An announcement on interviews and details on how applications can be reviewed will be announced soon.
There has been no further public word from the Court, from which one would conclude that the public interviews of the eight applicants will begin a week from today, on Wed., May 20th.

To confirm this, and to ask when the ILB could access the applications, the ILB wrote to Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan on Monday, May 11th about the upcoming interviews:

Kathryn, I have been getting questions about when you will be posting the applications for the COA?

Additionally, when can the ILB take a look at the grades, writing samples, etc. of the applicants?

The response:
We are working on that. Applications are not public until JQC decides interviews. But when decisions are made we will have applications ready. Sorry I don’t have a date.
This is confusing. The Commission already has announced that interviews will begin May 20th. And the provision cited in the initial announcement, IC 33-27-3-2(d)(1), provides in relevant part [ILB emphasis]:
When the commission's screening has reduced the number of candidates for further consideration to not less than ten (10) or it has less than ten (10) eligible candidates otherwise from which to choose, the commission shall:
(1) publicly disclose the names of the individuals and their applications before taking any further action; and
(2) give notice of any further action in the same manner that notice is given under IC 5-14-1.5.
The ILB believes it is the intent of the legislation creating the judicial nominating commission and prescribing the selection process that it be transparent. This is the public's only opportunity to learn about the qualifications of the various applicants for an appellate vacancy and to assess for themselves the fairness and thoroughness of the commission's evaluation process. This is guaranteed by the law's requirements that the applications, and the interviews, be open to the public. To maintain public confidence in the judiciary, efforts must be made to involve the public in the process as much as possible. That is why the ILB began reviewing the applications and reporting on the interviews in 2010. After all, the candidate who emerges from the nomination process and selection by the Governor may hold a seat on the court for life. The only input the public will have thereafter is a "yes" or "no" on a retention ballot.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 13, 2015 03:10 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts | Vacancy on COA 2015