Saturday, February 16, 2008

GOP Dumps Three Sitting Judges In Slating

Indianapolis' legal community is stunned by the action of Marion County GOP committeepersons today in dumping three sitting superior court judges, including Criminal Court Judge John Hammel and Civil Court Judges Gary Miller and Kenneth Johnson. Shockingly, the GOP slated a an attorney convicted of driving drunk and killing a man, Timothy Oakes, for one of the three spots opened up by dumping the incumbent judges. Oakes is a lobbyist for the cable TV industry who was fired by former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman several years ago under suspicion of tipping off his father about a criminal investigation in which his father was a target. Oakes was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing but was not rehired by the prosecutor's office.

On the Democratic side, all incumbent judges were re-slated by the Marion County Democrats. Each party nominated eight candidates for the superior court and one candidate for the circuit court. Circuit Court Judge Ted Sosin opted for a superior court spot instead of seeking re-election as Circuit Court Judge. Lawrence Township Small Claims Court Judge James Joven edged out Alicia Golden for that spot. The Democrats chose Louis Rosenberg over Steven Poore for the Circuit Court.

As a service to the public, the Indianapolis Bar Association evaluates candidate for judge in Marion County. As you can see from the results, there is no correlation between who the respective parties chose and who members of the bar association recommended as the most qualified for the job. Here are the judicial candidates chosen by each part with the percentage of bar association members approving of the candidates next to their names in parenthesis:

MARION CIRCUIT COURT
Republican James A. Joven (68.3%)
Democrat Louis F. Rosenberg (80.7%)

MARION SUPERIOR COURT
Republican Cynthia J. Ayers (78.6%)
Republican David J. Certo (75.0%)
Democrat Annie Christ-Garcia (85.1%)
Democrat David J. Dreyer (92.0%)
Republican Kurt M. Eisgruber (80.8%)
Democrat Garland E. Graves (48.1%)
Democrat Patrick L. McCarty (77.6%)
Republican Robyn L. Moberly (86.2%)
Republican Marilyn A. Moores (80.7%)
Republican Timothy W. Oakes (60.3%)
Democrat James B. Osborn (75.4%)
Democrat Tanya M. Walton Pratt (86.0%)
Republican Marc T. Rothenberg (75.9%)
Democrat David A. Shaheed (89.8%)
Republican Theodore M. Sosin (95.4%)
Democrat Gerald S. Zore (88.4)

If you want to see the judicial survey results for all of the candidates, click here. You will see that Judges Miller (85.5%) and Johnson (82.6%), for example, scored much higher than Timothy Oakes, who was recommended by just 60.3% of the respondents. In the Circuit Court race, Republican Alicia Golden scored much higher than Judge James Hoven, 88.2% to 68.3%.

Today's results might be just what it takes to get the legal community to get off its butt and scrap this antiquated slating system, which often yields lesser-qualified candidates than what a merit selection system would produce. The losing candidates at slating can still run in the May primary; however, many choose not to buck the slate. I believe many in the legal community will be hoping that Judges Miller and Johnson give serious consideration to running to save the party from the embarrassment of having a convicted drunk driver causing death of another person as one of the party's judicial candidates this fall. Of these 16 candidates nominated by the respective parties in the May primary, 8 each, all are guaranteed victory this fall. This makes it all the more important that qualified candidates like Miller and Johnson buck the slating system and offer voters a real choice.

27 comments:

Wilson46201 said...

Maybe the Fat Yellow Chicken will haunt GOP events with a simple sign: "OAKES KILLS" ?

Anonymous said...

Hammel was wretched, the slowest judge around, and that is saying something. Things took forever to move in this court, and he insisted on putting things on the calendar himself. There you, with sixty some defendants on the slate, and he is flipping through a freaking calendar page by slow page trying to find a date.

Miller is the huge upset. I had heard the other two were going to have problems, but can't beleive he got dumped.

Sosin is a good judge. He is leaving the circuit court because he thinks the demographics are against him and he won't win reelection for that seat.

Oakes raised A LOT of money. With that, and the popular Sosin in the running, that explains why Johnson and Hammel got bumped, but does not explain Miller. Has he pissed of someone?

I think the election system you describe is no longer accurate. The party chairman will pick one more nominee after the primary, and then all twenty will be elected.

Advance Indiana said...

anon 7:13, I believe you're correct. They changed it in the last election.

Advance Indiana said...

The county chairmen don't get to pick a candidate this time, though. That applied only to the last election.

Anonymous said...

The whole judicial selection system is nuts.

But we get what we elect. If the lawyers don't like a particular judge, I'm not sure that fact alone should disqualify the judge/candidate.

But I've been in about a half-dozen of the courts, for multiple cases. I have been stunned at the lack of experience or common sense demonstrated on the bench. It is rarified air those judges breathe.

Sosin is right. He'd never have gotten re-elected Circuit Judge. That ship has sailed.

And his court was one of the ones I mentioned above. My case was a complicated one, lots of attorneys, and I never had the feeling Sosin was on top of things. Polite, yes. Competent--not so sure.

I'm still stunned that the Democrats renominated Ken Ackles. That they ditched Mary C. Barton isn't a surprise--she's a gadfly.
Last fall's election notwithstanding, this has become a Democratic county. And with the gubernatorial and presidential elections on the ballot this fall, it could become even moreso.

Anonymous said...

Only one judicial candidate got less than 50%. Even with the most generous of curves that is no where close to a passing grade.

Anonymous said...

Whats the difference between Circuit and Superior courts?

Advance Indiana said...

In Marion County, the biggest difference is the manner in which they are elected. There is just one circuit judge compared to the multiple superior court judges elected at one time. The jurisdiction is similar. The circuit court gets cases reassigned to it which the superior court passes on to it.

Anonymous said...

Are you advocating that only lawyers get to vote for judges?

Anonymous said...

Miller and Johnson both had ego problems. Johnson hasn't done anything in the legal profession other than being a judge in 30 years. He proved himself to be really full of himself at GOP Club meetings. Johnson opened his mouth and explained why he's such a legend in the trial court field. Yes, he's a legend in his own mind. Miller never attended any that I attended. It wouldn't have helped him, though. He's a well known jerk. He'll not suffer, though. One of the big firms will hire him once his term is over. Goodin probably was a better choice. Jovan worked a lot harder, though, and that counts. His low ranking on the bar poll probably has to due with low recognition among lawyers as not many attorneys practice much in Small Claims Court. He's a good candidate, though. He's sharp. Oakes, though, is major disappointment. It's crazy. You have potential candidates disqualified for felonies that have been reduced to misdemeanors, have legeslators that voted for the disenfranchisement law say, "When do you put something to rest and give a man another chance?" There are so many others who deserve a second chance that they won't get. Money talks, & etc.

I can't say much about the Democratic side other than it isn't surprising, other than Mahern. Ackles is certainly unqualified for even a 'management' position. Odds are, though, he'll win.

b said...

I think AI is suggesting the legal community, who most directly observes the effects day in and out, should push for overall system change. Since the law changed in 2006, the upshot is 16 judges elected in the fall, w/ no more than 8 on ballot from each party. That means everyone who wins the primary wins automatically in the fall (not counting potential Libertarian, which won't matter). So general election voters have no say. Then, primary voters really have no say either. Unless you get those running against the slate (which seems to happen w. D's some times but not R's) then the voters have no say in the primary either. A few hundred party insiders are the only ones who vote for judges, really. You can barely say they're "elected".

So what happens is it all boils down to which judges ass-kiss the township committee people the most effectively.

In the case of Judge Miller, his downfall apparently was he didn't attend all the township events and was reportedly on vacation the past week and wasn't here working the phones to committee people.

Politically speaking, that was pretty dumb. But it's sad that that's what it boils down to in picking the judges who will be on the bench for 6 years affecting the lives of countless citizens and the public has little to no say.

b said...

10:14, I don't know why you'd think the odds favor Ackles. I think he's gone, and not a moment too soon. He's an embarassment to most Democrats even. The biggest recent countywide winners have been R's (Ballard, CCC at-large, Brizzi), and even though presidential election may turnout huge D's and D-leaners, the coroner's race will get plenty of local attention because of Ackles' problems and Pless's quals.

It's entirely possible, however, that Ackles steps aside despite his slating and someone else will be on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

I attended the Demo slating convention today. What a zoo! It was tanding room only in the crowded Farm Bureau Pavilion. After a half hour of speeches following the 10AM start, it took another 2 hours to complete the vote using about 2 dozen Voltronics. I can't believe the way the GOP is self-destructing with their slate after their recent wins in November. They're acting more like the Democrats than the Democrats! Well, we'll see how well the "anointed one" does in the special election against an opponent who has a way of making Democratic votes dissapear.

HoosierNick

Anonymous said...

We need to scrap the slating system and have real elections.

Anonymous said...

Hammel and Johnson had no real support form the legal community. Miller became odd man out because he didn't lift a finger to recruit PC support while Eisgruber, Oakes, and Rotherberg attended almost every local GOP meeting and impressed a lot of people. No one I know held Oakes' past against him. He was a 17-year-old kid and he turned his life around. Most PCs were willing to accept that.

Advance Indiana said...

I don't think any candidate for judge should have to kiss the butt of a precinct committeeperson to get elected. The issues with Tim Oakes don't start and stop with the drunk driving death at 17 years of age. Respected people in the legal community knows this. The idea that any group of people could pick him over either Judges Johnson or Miller is a complete joke. These committeepersons have proven themselves completely inept at selecting judges. It has to stop now. We are the laughing stock of the country. Hardly anyone selects judges this way anymore. Even the system in Chicago is better than this one and that isn't saying much. If merit selection is good enough for Lake County, it should be good enough for Marion County.

Advance Indiana said...

I don't think any candidate for judge should have to kiss the butt of a precinct committeeperson to get elected. The issues with Tim Oakes don't start and stop with the drunk driving death at 17 years of age. Respected people in the legal community know this. The idea that any group of people could pick him over either Judges Johnson or Miller is a complete joke. These committeepersons have proven themselves completely inept at selecting judges. It has to stop now. We are the laughing stock of the country. Hardly anyone selects judges this way anymore. Even the system in Chicago is better than this one and that isn't saying much. If merit selection is good enough for Lake County, it should be good enough for Marion County.

Anonymous said...

Why couldn't Miller and/or Johnson run as Independents in the fall? They are surely more electable than some of the clowns on the D & R list. Remember Lieberman in 2006 . . . .

Anonymous said...

Tom John is to blame for the Tim Oakes fiasco. As the party's leader and an attorney, he should have sat down with Oakes and told him his presence on the ticket would be too much of a negative detraction. I guess he wanted to match the Dems Kenneth Ackles with Tim Oakes instead.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Marchal was not slated is a damn shame. He was one of the best candidates that the Ds had.

Anonymous said...

I like how Tim Oakes biography omits the fact he's been working as a lobbyist for the cable TV industry and not practicing law for quite a few years.

Anonymous said...

there is no perfect way to select judges...i've been around slating for over 12 years, and although not everyone i supported got slated, the slating process worked fairly well as ever yesterday. Miller thought he was entitled and Johnson was there too long with too many angry lawyers substantively complaining about his court. Oakes has been campaigning for this position for 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Here's the biggest problem with the slating process in Marion County. The Judicial Canon of Ethics prevents judges from attending specific political events, donating to candidates and basically acting political for 5 of the 6 years of their term. The Canon of Ethics makes sense----you don't want judges who are political hacks, but herein lies the problem in Marion County---political hacks are the ones who win through the slating process. It's embarrassing.

Judges in other Indiana counties have to run one versus one in the general election. Sure, it is generally a D vs. an R, but at least the PEOPLE get a choice. Under this current system, the PEOPLE get stuck with political hacks chosen through back room deals and patronage. It's a damn shame.

Anonymous said...

As a Republican precinct committeperson who voted in yesterday's slating, I can say I am disgusted by the results. More prominent members of the party actually got in my face and insisted that I vote against Miller during the third and fourth rounds. I could not bring myself to oust an incumbent in favor of a no-name candidate, however. Unfortunately, most of my colleagues did. As an active member of the Marion County GOP, I would willingly support any of the incumbents who decide to run against the slate in the hopes of beating the likes of Eisgruber and Oakes.

Kelly said...

Anyone who would like to contact Judge Miller's campaign directly with comments, suggestions, or offers of support may do so by sending an email to judgemiller2008@aol.com

Anonymous said...

How do we get rid of the slating process? We must start working on this immediately.

Anonymous said...

I'm an active GOP'er and was at the slating convention. I cannot believe Tim Oakes was slated! I do believe in forgiveness and redemption, but I also believe in consequences. Should
Tim Oakes be able go on and live a productive and fulfilling life after committing a tragic mistake in his youth? Absolutely. Should he be able to sit as a judge? No.