Thursday, February 02, 2017
Ind. Courts - House adopts HB 1036, intended to replace Marion County judicial selection law declared unconstitutional by the 7th Circuit
HB 1036, the Marion County judicial selection bill, has passed the House. Here is the bill synopsis, which hits some of the highlights:
Provides for the selection of Marion superior court (court) judges.ILB readers will recall that in September of 2015 the 7th Circuit threw out as unconstitutional the existing statute concerning the selection of Marion County judges. From the ACLU news release at the time:
Establishes the 14 member Marion County judicial selection committee
[What happens when there is a vacancy?]
Provides that, when the committee learns of a vacancy on the court, the committee follows certain procedures that conclude in the committee sending the names of three nominees to the governor.
Requires the governor to appoint one of the nominees as judge to fill the vacancy.
[What happens when the currently elected judges' terms end?]
Provides that, at the end of a judge's term on the court, the judge may have the question of the judge's retention on the court placed on the general election ballot.
Provides that, before a judge may stand for retention, the judge must appear before the committee to allow the committee to issue a recommendation to voters concerning the judge's qualifications and suitability to continue to hold judicial office.
Requires that the judge's retention on the court must be approved or rejected by the electorate of Marion County.
The lawsuit, brought by Common Cause Indiana represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, challenged the constitutionality of Indiana Code § 33-33-49-13, which results in each major party nominating candidates for only one half of judicial vacancies.More: Here is IBJ coverage by Hayleigh Colombo, headed "House approves merit-selection system for Marion County judges."
The statute effectively removed any choice from voters and rendered the election of judges a mere formality. Voters in Marion County who did not cast a ballot in the primary election had absolutely no say in electing judges. Even people who did vote in the primary election had a say in only half of the judgeships. * * *
The Seventh Circuit ruling held that: "When an election law reduces or forecloses the opportunity for electoral choice, it restricts a market where a voter might effectively and meaningfully exercise his choice between competing candidates, and thus severely burdens the right to vote." The Court concluded that this severe burden was not justified.
Here is the Indianapolis Star coverage, by Fatima Hussein.