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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ind. Courts - "County judicial election system now in lawmakers’ lap"

The $$$ IBJ had a good story Jan 9, reported by Hayleigh Colombo, on what may replace the law governing the selection of Marion County judges, post the 7th Circuit's opinion in Common Cause Indiana v. Indiana Election Comm. A sample from the long story:

Lawmakers can look across the state for a way to proceed: Most of the 92 counties use traditional, partisan elections to choose judges. Vanderburgh and Allen counties use non-partisan elections. And St. Joseph and Lake counties use a “merit selection” process that has a committee vet candidates, with the governor making the appointment from a list of finalists.

Republican state Sen. Mike Young, a lawyer from Indianapolis who is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he plans to file a bill that would establish a system that keeps partisan balance on the bench. But he declined to elaborate on specifics.

“We want to ensure we have a system similar to what we have now where the makeup of the judiciary we have is divided equally and that voters have a meaningful way to participate,” Young said. “There won’t be slating as we know it anymore.”

But he said he’s not keen on the idea of having a nominating commission recommend judges, especially without elected officials on the commission.

“Some people want to have all the power and not have voters have power in picking judges,” Young said.

“Somebody has to pick them,” he said. I’d be more afraid of one person picking them than letting all the voters decide.”

But [IU McKinney Law professor Joel] Schumm said an election that required a balanced partisan outcome could end up running into similar legal issues.

“If his proposal is that there’s an equal number of Democrats and Republicans that win, some of the candidates who get elected are not going to be the people who get the most votes,” Schumm said. “I think there could be a legal challenge from voters who question how their vote counted if the candidates who win are not the ones with the most votes.”

State Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, said he appreciates Young’s goal to have both parties represented but agreed the desire for a “50-50” split is a dilemma.

“I have been thinking about minimum seats for parties as opposed to equal seats, which would reflect more what the electorate is like,” Delaney said.

ILB: Here is SB 352, authored by Sen. Young.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 13, 2016 09:03 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts | Indiana Government