Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Indianapolis Bar Association Survey Results For Judicial Candidates




Kimberly J. Brown (i)2302320710.0%Cynthia J. Ayers (i)3903216982.3%
Karen Celestino-Horseman (c)115615453.0%Rom Byron (c)103792476.7%
Annie Christ-Garcia (i)2242012389.7%David J. Certo (i)2982692990.3%
Barbara Cook-Crawford (i)2161843285.2%Patrick "PJ" Dietrick (c)104941090.4%
Angela Dow Davis (c)150797152.7%Kurt M. Eisgruber (i)204195995.6%
David J. Dreyer (i)4333884589.6%Therese A. Hannah (c)6662493.9%
Shatrese M. Flowers (c)2101298161.4%Gary L. Miller (i)3793126782.3%
Mark A. Jones (c)255246996.5%Marilyn A. Moores (i)2171684977.4%
Christina R. Klineman (c)1631461789.6%Timothy W. Oakes (i)3663254188.8%
Jonathan C. Little (c)80225827.5%Marc T. Rothenberg (i)2081971194.7%
Sheryl L. Lynch (c)1691234672.8%

James B. Osborn (i)2202101095.5%

Marcel A. Pratt, Jr. (c)2111753682.9%

Todd A. Woodmansee (c)124596547.6%

Responses to this statement: I recommend (candidate name) for judicial office.
2014 Survey Group Statistics:
Total Number of Deliverable Emails: 4,377 (2012 total: 4,323)
Total Returned: 1,201(2012 total: 1,150)
Response Rate: 27.8% (2012 rate: 26.6%)
Survey Group:
-Indianapolis Bar Association attorney members
-Marion County Bar Association attorney members
-Attorneys with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office
-Attorneys with the Marion County Public Defender’s Office

The Indianapolis Bar Association has released the results of a survey it took of its membership concerning the candidates seeking election to the seats up for election on the Marion County Superior Court and the Circuit Court. Only about 27% of the 4,377 bar association members offered an opportunity to participate in the survey responded to it, which indicates utter apathy among most bar members towards the election of judges in Marion County. I always make it a point to respond to the survey. Typically, I don't pass judgment on many of the candidates because I lack any professional knowledge of their capabilities, particularly with respect to those who practice primarily in the criminal courts since I only practice in the civil courts.

Because so few attorneys participate in the survey, attorneys from the larger law firms have a disproportionate influence in the survey results because they go out of their way to encourage their attorneys to complete the survey in accordance with their desire to see their preferred candidates scored higher than other candidates. I'm a Republican and can't really quarrel with the survey results for the Republican candidates, all of whom received pretty high marks; however, the low rating given to one of the Democratic candidates, Karen Celestino-Horseman, is totally unfair. Even though I don't agree with Karen on very many political issues, she's a very hard-working, knowledgeable and experienced attorney who has earned better than the 53% favorable recommendation result she received in the survey. Clearly, this is a case where there is an organized effort on the part of certain attorneys to score her lowly in an effort to discredit her candidacy. Judge Kimberly Brown's 10% rating, the lowest in the survey, is understandable given her suspension as a judge as a result of a highly-publicized disciplinary complaint against her. I don't know enough about the other three Democrats receiving low ratings, Angela Davis (52%), Jonathan Little (27.5%) and Todd Woodmansee (47.6%), to characterize their survey results. I would note that Woodmansee does have one prior concluded disciplinary action against him and one that is currently pending, which may have affected his rating. I would add that the lowest rated candidates, other than Judge Brown, were all non-incumbents.

Because of the byzantine system unique to Marion County, the process of electing judges begins and ends with the slating conventions held by the respective major political parties. Each party nominates half of the number of superior court judge positions to be filled in the general election, which means that whoever wins the primary automatically wins the general election. It's nearly impossible to win the primary election unless you're first slated at the party's slating convention. Only rarely is a candidate successful in bypassing the slating process and winning one of the coveted spots in the primary election. Judge Kimberly Brown, a Democrat, was one such candidate, and she's been effectively taken out of the race due to her suspension from the bench. Typically, candidates who fail to win at slating will drop out of the primary election. Judicial candidates are compelled to pay up to $24,000 to be slated by their respective candidates, which seems a bit unseemly to most legal ethicists but it's the system that has been in place only in Marion County for decades now.

UPDATE: I've been advised that Todd Woodmansee dropped out of the race.


Anonymous said...

Only someone with a death wish would complete that survey.

Are the parties under a requirement to source the slating fee?

Gary R. Welsh said...

"Source the slating fee"

Good question. The candidates are required to file their campaign finance disclosure statements, itemizing receipts and disbursements from their campaign committees. Not surprisingly, most of their contributors are attorneys. Some judicial candidates loan the money from their personal resources to their campaign committee to pay the slating fee.

Anonymous said...

Gary, If I read your response correctly, a slating fee is merely a campaign contribution to a party.

Under the Indiana Code or federal election laws, can parties charge candidates to participate in primaries or conventions?

Are slating fees reported as contributions, and do $26,000 slating fees violate any personal contribution limits?

Further, is payment of a slating fee grounds for recusal in any case in which counsel is or works for a known donor of the party?

That is, B&T is a well known donor to the Marion County Republican Party and exerts considerable influence on the party. Judge X is a Republican and relies upon the party for continued slating, thus continued employment as a judge. A vs. B is assigned to Judge X. B&T represents B. How is the slating requirement not grounds for mandatory recusal?

Gary R. Welsh said...

The slating fee is used, in part, to pay for the mailers that are sent out to the voters in the primary to inform them about all the slated candidates. The state parties similarly charge the statewide candidates nominated at the state convention a fee for being nominated.

The slating fees are booked as a campaign expenditure by the candidate's campaign committee. The candidates raise money from campaign contributors to pay the fee, or they simply loan the money to their campaign out of their own pocket if they're unable to raise enough money in contributions from others.

Perhaps the only time a sitting judge might recuse him or herself from a matter is if the attorney/contributor also chaired or served in some other official role as a member of his or her campaign committee. I don't believe they recuse themselves based on a campaign contribution alone from an attorney or law firm representing one of the parties.