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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Vacancy On Supreme Court 2017 - Round 2: Report On Interview #3, Hon. Christopher M. Goff

This is Prof. Joel Schumm's report on the 3rd interview of Round 2

Hon. Christopher M. Goff, Wabash Superior Court (photo) (application) (first interview)

In response to an opening question about ways the Indiana Constitution is greater than the federal constitution, Judge Goff noted some of these could be hot button issues and discussed religion liberties (City Chapel) and commented that he sees more frequently things like search and seizure (Section 11) challenges.

Mr. Goff brought his family, whom Chief Justice Rush asked him to introduce. He said he has been married since he was 21, and she is his life partner. He noted how richly they had been blessed since then.

In response to a question about the greatest obstacles to justice, Judge Goff emphasized providing equal access to justice. He noted that supervision of low-level felonies, for example, had shifted from the state to county, which requires innovation. Confidence in the judicial could erode if we don’t ensure equal opportunities.

In response to a question from Mr. Feighner about his age of 45, about 10 years younger than his colleagues, and the long tenure, Judge Goff said he was not ready as a 22-year-old dad or 32-year-old judge, but when he finds himself at his weakest he reaches out for resources to get the job done. He could contribute on day one, remarking on his work on domestic violence and judicial education. He would work on writing good, clear opinions.

Judge Yakym read the preamble of the Indiana Constitution and asked if the judiciary was working to achieve those goals. Judge Goff emphasized the importance of county judges in addressing problems. Regarding public safety, he believes more needs to be done to extend or regionalize problem-solving courts.

In response to a question from Mr. Berger about the ability of the court to have diversity, specifically the Rooney rule, e which Judge Goff said he could not address. (Mr. Feighner later explained the rule but did not pose a question.)

Following up about the two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Judge Goff said he would first want to be Chris Goff, and remarked on his unique familial background. He will “never look like one of those guys,” which is important, but he adopted an African-American child when he was 22, and he can see discrimination in his treatment. Judge Goff was an African-American studies minor at Ball State and had planned to study in Tanzania but his wife decided they should instead get married. Although he comes from a place without much diversity, he believes it is important to get a broader perspective.

In response to a question about the low bar passage rate, after $100,000 in debt for many students, Judge Goff discussed his attendance of the 2015 AJEI in which Justice Massa presented about challenges to legal education and noted the importance of attracting better students to law school. He also discussed doing a better job promoting civility.

In response to a question from Ms. Long about the power and bounds of the judiciary, Judge Goff discussed the importance of unanimity in opinions and said he is most passionate about ways the judiciary can improve people’s lives and be a good ambassador.

When asked about a life lesson he hoped his children learned from him, Judge Goff said “jump in with both feet and don’t be afraid to try something.”

In response to a question from Mr. Feighner about his work as a judge in a rural county, Judge Goff emphasized the importance of the perspective of small towns, which have different needs. Most of Indiana looks like Wabash and not Indianapolis. If he knows he will have to house all his Level 6 felons in the county jail, he will need problem-solving courts.

In response to a question from Mr. Yakym about expanding the size of the Indiana Supreme Court (the Indiana Constitution allows it and neighboring states have seven justices), Judge Goff said more members give more voices and perspectives, although each may be diluted. Judge Goff said he sometimes gets tired of change and thinks five is probably the right size for Indiana and merit selection has worked well in selecting justices.

In response to a question about things that keeps him awake at night, Judge Goff said his mother doesn’t have health insurance. When deciding cases, he worries about how a supervised visit will work and other issues. He worries about the struggles people have, and that would not change if he was on the Indiana Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Rush asked which of the three cases on the docket for next week Judge Goff would want to write if he was on the Court, and he said tax is the area in which he has the least experience, and he would want to jump in and do that one.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 18, 2017 11:15 AM
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Court - 2017