Gavel Grab

Judges Win Retention Votes in Arizona, Indiana, Illinois

Efforts to unseat state supreme court justices in retention (yes-or-no) elections failed in Arizona and Indiana.

In Arizona, Supreme Court Justice John Pelander  set up a campaign committee to defend against a GOP and tea party effort to unseat him (see Gavel Grab). Justice Pelander is a Republican. Justice Pelander and other appellate judges on the  ballot  ”coasted easily” to retention, the Arizona Republic reported.

In Indiana, Supreme Court Justice Steven David, the target of some anti-retention efforts over a single ruling in a controversial case (see Gavel Grab), won another term with 69 percent of votes cast. An Associated Press article characterized the retention challenge as rare. Read more

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Common Cause, ACLU Sue Indiana

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Common Cause, an open government group, filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Secretary of State on Thursday. The complaint criticized Indiana’s unusual judicial elections practices, the Business Insider reported. Common Cause is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

The ACLU of Indiana contended that the law requiring all of Marion County’s superior-court judicial candidates to run unopposed was problematic. Twenty superior-court judges out of 36 are up for reelection this year.

Elaborating further, the ACLU of Indiana Director, Ken Falk, stated, “in Marion County, you’re given half a vote at the time of the primary election, and essentially nothing at the time of the general election.”

According to Indiana law, each major political party holds a primary to select candidates for half of the open seats. As a result, according to ACLU of Indiana, “the general election [is] a mere formality.”

Furthermore, voters have very little decision impact throughout the process. They have little say in the primaries to begin with, and even if they participate in the primaries, their votes are important for only half of the eligible candidates.

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Indiana Bar Advocates for Retention of Judicial Candidates

Indiana voters are being encouraged by the Indiana State Bar Association to vote ‘yes’ to retain two state Supreme Court justices and four Court of Appeals judges in the November election, a Northwest Indiana Politics article reports.

According to the article, the group held a survey in which more than 80 percent of the participants supported retaining all the candidates.

“Earning the approval of more than eight out of 10 respondents to our retention poll is a show of strong support by Indiana’s legal community for the jurists up for retention,” said Erik Chickedantz, president of the bar association.

No Indiana judicial candidate has lost a retention vote since the selection system was adopted in 1970, the article notes.

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Court Ruling from 2011 Sparks Anti-Retention Push in Indiana

In a rising movement, some activists are calling for Indiana citizens to vote ‘no’ on the retention of state Supreme Court Justice Steven David over a ruling he authored in 2011.

According to the Associated Press, members of the movement, who range from tea party activists to college students to Libertarians, want to see David ousted in response to a 3-2 decision asserting that Indiana residents do not have the right to resist arrest, even if the police are in their home illegally. Critics believe the ruling conflicts with the Fourth Amendment.

Jim Bratten, state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, argued that the ruling’s contradiction of the Fourth Amendment is “pretty serious,”  and was “a step too far.”

Indiana lawmakers moved to rewrite the law. In March, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill stating that Indiana’s self-defense law protects citizens who “reasonably believe force is necessary to protect themselves, someone else or their own property from unlawful actions by a public servant.”

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Female Judge Named to All-Male Indiana Supreme Court

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday named Loretta Rush, a Tippecanoe County juvenile judge, to sit on the state Supreme Court. Until now, it has had the distinction of being one of only three all-male top state courts in the nation.

“I do believe she was clearly the best available choice and I’m totally comfortable with it,” Daniels said, according to an Associated Press article. “From a strong field on this occasion I am utterly confident that Indiana is making the best possible choice.”

The appointment will make Judge Rush only the second female to serve on the court in its history. Justice Myra Selby, who also made history as  the first African American on the court, retired in 1999, according to an Indianapolis Star report.

Judge Rush spoke admiringly of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a model. “I enjoy Justice Scalia’s opinions. I like his legal philosophy; sometimes he goes into extra words in some of his orders. But I believe in judicial restraint,” she said.

In the past two years, Daniels had appointed two other justices to the high court, both of them men.

The other two states without any women on their highest court are Idaho and Iowa, according to the National Center for State Courts. It is a JAS partner group.

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Indiana Governor Has Third Chance to Appoint a Woman Justice

That Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is facing his third opportunity to appoint a female justice to the state’s Supreme Court, which currently includes no women, continues to draw attention in state news media. See Gavel Grab for previous coverage.

Judge Loretta Rush (photo) is one of three candidates recommended last month by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission for a vacancy on the court, reports the Also recommended were Judge Steven Nation and attorney Geoffrey Slaughter.

Indiana is one of only three states without a woman on its highest court. Only Justice Myra Selby has broken the gender barrier on the court. Then-Gov. Evan Bayh appointed Justice Selby in 1995. She stepped down from the court in 1999 for private practice.

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Opportunity for Indiana Governor to Add Diversity to the Bench

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is once again facing pressure to select a woman to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court’s bench. In the coming months, he will choose between three finalists for the open seat on the court: Judge Loretta Rush, Superior Court Judge Steven Nation, and Geoffrey Slaughter.

This is Daniels’ third opportunity to name a justice to the five-member, all-male court, an Evansville Courier and Press article says. According to the article, only one individual out of the 107 justices who have served on the court was a woman.

Sixteen of the 22 applicants for the vacancy were female, but Rush was the only woman selected by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission as a finalist. She’s currently a juvenile court judge, and says sometimes she thinks the judicial branch of government is the least transparent. “[T]he more that we open it up and become more transparent, the more the public will have trust in what we are doing,” Rush says.

The governor has previously appointed two men to the bench. Daniels now has 60 days to choose from the three candidates to replace retiring Justice Frank Sullivan. Read more

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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • A woman in Huntsville, Alabama filed complaints with the state Democratic and Republican parties to disqualify some Supreme Court candidates, The Associated Press reported.
  • Chosen by a nominating commission in May, Justice Brent E. Dickson was sworn in Monday as Indiana Supreme Court chief justice, succeeding Randall Shepard, according to Eagle Radio. Shepard is a JAS board member.
  • Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski recently wrote a letter to ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Budget Committee, saying it is not feasible to cancel the court’s planned 2012 conference in Maui. He acknowledged that a different location should have been considered in the planning stages, and informed the Senators that the 2013 conference will be postponed by an entire year, the ABA Journal reported.
  • Since the federal judiciary began its cameras in the courtroom pilot program over a year ago for fourteen federal trial courts, thirty-nine court proceedings have been recorded and archived, available on the U.S. Court’s website, according to WOUB News.

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Monday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • A Pittsburgh police union will began to document judges’ misconduct in the courtroom, “including disrespectful treatment and setting inappropriate bond for violent offenders,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
  • Seventy percent of the applicants for a seat on the Indian Supreme Court are women. If a woman is chosen, she would be the second to serve on that state’s highest court, according to The Associated Press.

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Editorial: High Court Vacancy an Opportunity for Indiana Governor

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan has announced that he will resign at the end of August to teach business and finance law at Indiana University – PUI’s law school. Sullivan has served on the court since 1993, and was an adjunct professor at the law school from 2007 to 2009, according to 93.1 WIBC.

With Sullivan’s departure, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be able to make his third appointment to the court. Daniels will choose from three finalists selected by the Judicial Nominating Commission. This past month, Daniels appointed his former general counsel, Mark Massa to the court (see Gavel Grab).

An Indianapolis Star editorial writes that Sullivan’s vacancy provides an opportunity for Daniels to “add gender, racial or ethnic diversity to the court.” The current makeup of the court is all male and 80 percent white. Daniels’ previous appointments have also fallen into this demographic.

According to the editorial, diversity shouldn’t trump quality legal qualifications, but “there is a value in having a court that reflects the life experiences… of a broad range of Hoosiers.” A female can bring a set of experiences that an all-male group of justices could not, it says. This would hold true for a Latino, Native American or Asian-American justice as well.

The editorial says Sullivan has served the state well for 19 years, and he deserves appropriate recognition of his contributions. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to “draft a high court that better reflects the diverse makeup” of Indiana, it writes.

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