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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ind. Courts - Ted Boehm on potential changes to judicial section for the Marion Co. Superior Court

On Sept. 9th the 7th Circuit "upheld a district court ruling and declared that the method of electing Marion Superior Court judges is unconstitutional." See details in this ILB post and its links.

In the Oct. 10 IBJ Forefront, former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm writes under the heading "A door opens for appointing Marion County judges." A few quotes:

The Legislature will get first crack at a new system, hopefully one that eliminates campaign finance and dependence on any interest group and also vets candidates for thoughtfulness, experience and patience.

Three versions of appointment from nominees by a nonpartisan commission have been used for some time in Indiana for the appellate bench and trial courts in two large counties. Improvements can be made in their details, but generally these merit systems have worked well. Those who know these courts overwhelmingly believe they improved the judiciary.

Concerns about merit appointment have proven unwarranted. Minority judges continue to be selected. The nominating commission can be structured to local needs and can be selected by multiple officials or groups to limit the influence of any one of them.

No judge’s term will expire before 2019. Although there is no immediate need to do anything, the Legislature will presumably act before then because inaction could leave the design up to the federal courts. We could have a plan even in 2016, because waiting until 2017 risks losing the iron grip of the current Republican supermajority on both houses of the Legislature.

A merit system has another virtue. Enactment of a plan that is not tested for compliance with the federal Constitution would risk invalidation by the courts without time to implement a new one. A merit system seems immune from court challenge. Alternatives being floated are less clearly constitutional with one exception—election of all 36 judges at large in the county. But that seems an improbable choice by a Republican Legislature for an increasingly Democratic county.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 13, 2015 09:50 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts