Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sandra Day O'Connor To The Rescue

Former Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor paid a visit to South Bend today to urge St. Joseph County to fight efforts to do away with merit selection of its county judges and replace it with elected judges like we have in Marion County. Many in the legal community were shocked when the Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation contained in HB 1491, which abolishes the merit selection system in St. Joseph County, even as it was opposed by Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend). This is a big step backwards in the Indiana legal community's effort to clean up our judiciary. Efforts to bring merit selection to Marion County didn't even make it to first base this year. It is unfortunate that so many in my Republican Party are at war with good government in this state.

Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog.

5 comments:

Paul K. Ogden said...

While I have grave reservations about the partisan election of judges, especially with Marion County's goofy system, I also have doubts about going to a Missouri type plan. Unfortunately that results in behind closed door politics which can be an even worse type of politics.

Michael said...

I think it is good for these parsimonious self righteous judges to have to go to the regular people every six years and supplicate. And I mean not just to the voters.... I mean the rank and file committemen and committeewomen. These judges make good money and vest very quickly in gold plated pension plans. The least we shoud make them do for this is to attend a gazillion township fish fries and actually talk to and shake hands with the everyday people whose lives they will be messing with for the next six years.

We are going to have politics either way. May as well be the retail version instead of the boardroom version.

AI, I am quite surprised by your views on this. I wouldn't think that you would be OK with the reps from the big firms deciding who the judges in Marion County will be.

Don't forget that Alicia Gooden came within 4 votes or so of getting slated over Joven (not that either would have won in November). She would have had NO chance if Marion County had "merit" selection.

Advance Indiana said...

Michael said, "AI, I am quite surprised by your views on this. I wouldn't think that you would be OK with the reps from the big firms deciding who the judges in Marion County will be."

Are you kidding, Michael? They've controlled the slating process for years. Who heads the GOP? Tom John of Ice Miller. Who heads the Dems? Ed Treacy, former lobbyist for Bose McKinney. Who appoints most of the committeepersons who vote for judges? John and Treacy. The committeepersons who are elected by the voters have next to no say in which judges are slated. The county chairman appoints the committee that makes the recommendation of judges to slate before the committeepersons even meet. Typically, the slated always win. Once you when the primary, there is only one candidate of either party who loses. It is the most undemocratic process I've ever seen. It's worse than anything I ever saw in Cook County, Illinois, which has a more democratic process. We're the laughing stock of the country. People can't believe the process when you explain it to them. There are really only a handful of people who control who becomes a judge in Marion County and every member of the bar in this county knows that. One of the most respected judges who served as a Circuit Judge, William Lawrence, who is now a federal judge, supports a merit selection system. That should tell you something.

Michael said...

I like Bill Lawrence a lot. But I think his desire for a merit selection system is simply a reflection of judges' self interest. They don't want to get their hands dirty doing retail politics. Many of them think the people are below them. "Merit" selection would make their lives easier. They wouldn't have to lower themselves by actually interacting with and (Oh the horror) asking normal everyday people for their money, support, and vote.

I agree that slating conventions can be and are often "rigged". I have been to my fair share of them (as the "rigger" and the "riggee" vbg).

But not everything is buttoned down tight. The bosses don't get evertying every time. But with "merit" selection, they will.

And even when the bosses get what they want in slating, the candidates STILL have to do the GOP and Demo Club rounds and mix it up with some blue hairs, rednecks, eager beaver law students, housewives, business owners, landscapers, etc etc. Regular people. Which they should.

For what they are getting in return, they should HAVE to do that. AT least every six years. I know they hate it. Some have told me so.

Which makes me like the system now just fine. vbg

I even told my State Rep so (Frizzell). How has he come down on this?

Michael said...

BTW, I remember an amusing story about this issue. Back in my day, municipal court judges were "merit" selected in Marion County. Well "merit" selection for the superior court judges came up back then every few years. One time, a bunch of law firm bigwigs have a sitdown with Marion County GOP Chairman John Sweezy (who pretty much ran Marion County.. God Bless him) and basically demand that "merit" Selection be implemented for the superior court judges as well. This may have occurred as part of a public presentation in fact.

In any event Sweezy gets up and basically says that "merit" selection is just another form of politics, that slating works just fine now and embodies the principles and benefits of retail politcs that he admires. In fact, he says with a wry smile, he likes the slating system so much that he is now thinking about pushing for replacing the "merit" selection for municipal judges with slating for them also.

You should have seen the horror on the faces of the hoity toity law firm types.

Sure enough, within a couple years, the municipal judges were made superior judges, and they ALL had to go through slating!!!!

It was great.