Friday, January 20, 2012

Indianapolis Bar Association Releases Meaningless Judicial Ratings

The Indianapolis Bar Association has released survey results for 23 declared judicial candidates, including 17 judges seeking re-election and 6 candidates seeking election for the first time. According to the survey of attorney members of the IBA, the candidates were rated as high as 96.7% and as low as 30.7%. The highest rated judicial candidate is Marion Superior Court Judge Robert Altice, Jr. The lowest rated judge is Marion Superior Court Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy, wife of Marion Co. Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy. The percentages assigned to each candidate reflects the percentage of participating bar members who recommended the candidate as qualified to serve as a judge. Only Judge Pierson-Treacy received a failing recommendation, although a number of other candidates scored only slightly better than 50%. Here's how they fared from top to bottom:

Robert Altice, Jr. (R)  96.7%
Mark D. Stoner (D)  95.7%
Heather Welch (D)  95.6%
Michael D. Keele (R)  95.4%
Sheila Carlisle (R)  94.2%
Helen Marchal (R)* 86.3%
William Nelson (R)  84.9%
Amy Jones (R)*  84.8%
Clark Rogers (R) 84.0%
Jose Salinas (D)  79.0%
Grant Hawkins (D) 78.8%
John Chavis (D)*  78.8%
Carol Orbison (R)  72.6%
Linda Brown (D)  69.9%
Lisa Borges (R)  69.8%
Steven Eichholtz (D)  68.8%
Thomas Carroll (D)  68.5%
James Joven (R)*  68.1%
John Hanley (D)  67.0%
Clayton Graham (R)*  60.0%
Mark King (D)*  53.4%
Greg Bowes (D)*  52.7%
Becky Pierson-Treacy (D)  30.7%

* Denotes a candidate not currently serving on the Superior Court.

The ratings are meaningless for all practical purposes because there are 20 judicial positions to be filled, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans. If all of the candidates' names appear on the May primary ballot, all but two of the Democratic candidates will win and all but one of the Republican candidates will win. Because of the slating practice of each party, candidates who are not slated typically withdraw their names resulting in no competition in the primary or general election. Three previously announced candidates have already withdrawn their names from consideration, probably because they were told they would not be slated. In a manner of speaking, voters in Marion County have absolutely no say in the election of their judges. Precinct committeepersons (PCs) of each party have a very limited role as a handful of political insiders handpick the candidates they back for slating before the PCs even meet for the slating convention and very seldom does a candidate not backed by the political insiders wind up getting slated by the PCs. That's because most of the PCs who vote at the slating convention are appointed by the party chairman. It's usually a waste of time for a PC to even bother showing up for the slating convention.

Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has reported that Judge Carol Orbison supposedly told party leaders that she would not rule out running in the primary if she is not slated, which may have doomed her chances of being slated at the convention at the end of this month. The Republicans failed to re-slate three sitting judges four years ago, all of whom chose not to run in the primary following their defeat at the slating convention. Both political parties require judicial candidates to pay a large slating fee as a condition to being considered as a slated candidate at the slating convention. The parties claim the slating fee is a voluntary contribution to the party, but everyone knows that a judicial candidate will never be slated if he or she doesn't pay the slating fee. Ogden notes a 1992 advisory opinion issued by the Judicial Qualifications Commission that makes quite clear that a mandatory payment of a slating fee as a condition to a judicial candidate being slated is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. They all pay to play figuring that there's safety in numbers violating the rule.


Paul K. Ogden said...

While I understand that the ISBA wants to release these ratings (which I agree are pretty much worthless) before slating, the fact is there is over two more weeks to go before the deadline for filing. ISBA's policy feeds into the notion that slating is the end of the process, rather than simply an endorsement process (controlled by party bosses.)

You bring up an excellent point, Gary. People think the decision on judges are made at slating. Actually they are made BEFORE slating with candidates being forced or "encouraged" to drop out in favor of other candidates.

CircleCityScribe said...

Rebekah Pierson-Treacy, WIFE of the Democratic Party Chairman keeps getting a seat, despite the fact she acts in ignorance or disregard of the law...and the numbers here prove that even attorney's find her unqualified.

-She collects a salary over $100k from the taxPAYERS for her marriage to the Chairman who guarantees her a place on the slate/bench.