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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ind. Courts - "Does Indiana need its own Rooney Rule?"

Jay Kenworthy, who blogs at Indiana Explained, posted this excellent long article on May 9th that was the topic of a number of tweets last evening. It definately should be read in full, but here are a couple of quotes to show the gist:

The Rooney Rule states that NFL teams must interview at least one minority candidate for any head coach or general manager opening. You see, not only were minorities not getting hired, they weren’t even being considered for top spots.

Today, Governor Mike Pence selected Geoffrey Slaughter, a white man, as the next Indiana Supreme Court Justice. We’ve known Governor Pence was going to select a white male for a couple of months.

Why? Because he was legally permitted only to consider white males.

With this lack of diversity on our state’s highest court, we need to ask ourselves if it’s time for Indiana to adopt it’s own Rooney Rule. * * *

This year was the first time since 1996 that no women were among the three JNC finalists. There was also an all-male finalist group in 1985, when former Chief Justice Randy Shepard was appointed.

So, you end up with a five-member Supreme Court with only one woman and one African American. There is also only one African American on the Court of Appeals and five women (out of 15). The sole Tax Court judge is a Caucasian female.

If you’re shocked by these proportions, you probably forgot the important note about the lack of diversity on the Judicial Nominating Commission. Presently, all members are white and only two are female. I could not find data on the past make-up of the JNC. * * * [ILB: But see below.]

An Indiana Judicial Rooney Rule work like this: the JNC would be required to include at least one racial minority and one female among the finalists for any Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or Tax Court vacancy unless there are no such applicants.

With that type of requirement, I guarantee we will never see another year like this, where no minority candidates applied. The opportunity to be considered for such an appointment would be too great to pass up.

The ILB can add some additional data:See also Mary Dieter's May 7th column in the IBJ's Forefront. A quote:
Justice Brent Dickson’s announcement that he would retire April 29 after 30 years set in motion a process to select three candidates from whom Gov. Mike Pence would choose the new justice. Thirty people applied; one withdrew, so 29 interviews ensued. Seven of the applicants were women. No person of color applied.

The Judicial Nominating Commission nominated St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Steven Hostetler, Boone Superior Court Judge Matthew Kincaid, and Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter. Three white men.

This column offers no criticism of the nominees. But the Indiana Supreme Court desperately needs to look more like Indiana’s population. In the court’s 200-year history, 108 justices have taken the bench. Two are women. Two are African-American.

The female applicants this year offered impressive credentials and diverse experiences. Three are sitting judges. One was a nurse by day and a law student by night. Another was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Stanford and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law. They practiced criminal and civil law.

Pence could have alerted his three appointees on the commission that he wanted a diverse panel of nominees. Such influence is hardly unprecedented. In 1994, I reported that Gov. Evan Bayh and his staff quietly worked to influence the commission to ensure Myra Selby, his director of health care policy, was among the nominees. * * *

Diversity matters. It enlightens and inspires, stokes understanding and sparks compromise. It signals that the justice system works for everyone. It reassures that women and minorities have a voice, especially on issues that disproportionately affect them (voter identification, abortion, sex discrimination, pregnancy in the workplace, hate crimes). It ensures that, as justices deliberate behind closed doors, they hear perspectives different from their own.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 11, 2016 08:47 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts