Judge Stoner explains the problem with the current system in Marion County where the slating process by the political parties can cost a judicial candidate $25,000:
"This results in lawyers who have to be already wealthy to run, and the appearance about all these judges raising that much from lawyers," he said. "We simply don't want a system where a litigant feels they've won or lost because their lawyer gave or didn't give as much as the other side."
The Indiana State Bar Association also backs merit selection of judges and made its proposal to the Commission on Courts this past year. Editorially, the Indiana Lawyer has come down on the side of merit selection:
We fail to understand anyone's attachment to such a blatantly and overtly political means of putting judges in office.As an elected precinct committeeperson, I will have the opportunity at the next scheduled election of Marion County judges to vote on which candidates to nominate for the Republican Party. Yet, I am willing to give up that voting right in favor of a more sensible, merit selection system. I don't know how anyone can look at how last year's slating of judicial candidates in Marion County took place and be comfortable with what occurred. It wouldn't be so bad if the slated candidates actually faced a November contest, but the current system ensures the election of all of the slated candidates of the respective parties, save one. Most of the precinct committeepersons who vote at the slating caucus aren't elected. Because there are so many vacancies, the county chairman gets to appoint precinct committeepersons of his own liking. In the case of both political parties in Marion County, the respective county chairmen are employed by two major law firms. The GOP's Tom John works for Ice Miller; the Democrats' Ed Treacy and his predecessor, Mike O'Connor, are affiliated with Bose McKinney.
We were once admonished by the head of the Marion County political parties that we didn't fully understand and appreciate the slating process because we'd never seen it work. We were encouraged to get involved in the process before criticizing it.
Of all the government reform measures the legislature might take up this year, I can think of none more important than merit selection. I hope the legislature ignores the pleadings of self-serving political leaders in both parties and pulls the plug on an outdated and unfair political system for choosing judges. As the Indiana Lawyer warns, "Nothing less than the credibility of our judiciary is at stake."