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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Vacancy on Supreme Court 2017 - Looking Ahead: Round One Interviews Begin Next Tuesday

Commentary by Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law

As noted in this post, twenty applicants for the upcoming vacancy on the Indiana Supreme Court will be interviewed next Tuesday and Wednesday. As has become a tradition since the 2010 vacancy, the ILB will provide summaries of the interviews and extensive commentary throughout the process.

Coverage of the Supreme Court selection process has always been intended to provide greater transparency and objective insight into what is already a fairly public process. Unlike the current federal vacancies, the public knows not only the number of applicants but can view the bulk of their applications online and even attend their interviews at the Statehouse.

Part II of the Application

The posted application includes most of the requested information, but a few answers do not appear on the posted application, such as health, including treatment for mental illness, and the contact information for references.

The title of the writing samples appears on the public application but the samples themselves require a trip to the Supreme Court library to view. Some educational information is available on the online application, but grade transcripts and grade point averages are not part of the posted application. Finally, letters of recommendation are similarly only available for in-person viewing.

I spent some time Friday afternoon looking through the paper applications. Each was submitted in a binder (most black, some white, and one wood), sometimes with helpful tabs to locate information. The binders fill two banker’s boxes:

Letters of Recommendation

As summarized in this post from 2016 and earlier, the JNC will consider a “reasonable number of letters of recommendation.” A few applicants included letters as part of their binder, but the vast majority of letters are sent directly to Judicial Nominating Commission members or staff. A separate binder includes letters of recommendation organized alphabetically. Letters are still arriving—and several were added literally while I was looking at the binder. For now, suffice it to say that the letters are various degrees of positive, if not glowing, and the number of letters varies considerably among applicants. As noted in the 2016 post, the three finalists each had between 8 and 10 letters.

Physician’s Letter

Question 3 of the non-public part of the Application instructs applicants: “Attach a recent statement from your physician describing your general physical condition.” Most included short letters noting the date of their most recent physical examination and a general statement to the effect of their excellent health and ability to perform the duties of a justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. One letter included detail of specific ailments while another included a multi-page report of highly personal information. Even if not posted online, that information is a public record available to the press and public, as the application instructions make clear.

Looking Ahead

Watch for posts on a variety of related subjects today and tomorrow. Topics include the age of applicants, their law school grades, and the odds of success of the finalists from previous vacancies.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 16, 2017 08:52 AM
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Court - 2017