Saturday, March 24, 2012

Daniels Calls Marion County's Judicial Slating System "A Travesty"

Gov. Mitch Daniels has been governor for nearly eight years. During that time, I don't recall any instance where he criticized the political system utilized by the two major parties to slate judicial candidates in Marion County until yesterday. During an interview with reporters following the announcement of his appointment of Mark Massa to the Supreme Court, he called the Marion County judicial slating system "a travesty" under which "these offices are purely partisan" and "purchased by party loyalty." That's pretty tough language. It would have been nice if the Governor had used his enormous political capital to pressure the legislature to enact a merit system for Marion County like Lake County has at some point during his two terms in office. Check out the interview where he made those comments to reporters at IndyPolitics here.


Lawyer said...

Not that I disagree with the governor but it is rather like the pot calling the kettle black don't you think? I mean, he appointed Mark Massa as a political payback for Massa's loyalty to Daniels.

Christine Scales said...

Maybe he heard about County GOP attorneys spreading out and out lies about Judge Carol Orbison falling asleep during trials and saying she's too old to serve another term. I'd like to see some of them keep pace with her as she stays on her bike throughout the Hilly Hundred.

LamLawIndy said...

I respectfully disagree with the Guv. Given our state's Jacksonian roots, I personally like direct election of judicial officers at the trial and appellate level and dislike merit selection because it places outsized influence in the hands of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, a body which is not directly responsive to the voting public.

That's not to say that slating can't be improved. I'd prefer that state statute require that only ELECTED committeemen can vote at a caucus to fill an elected official's vacant seat. I'd also like a change in party rules to require that only ELECTED committeemen can vote at slating.

CircleCityScribe said...

The Governor is right-on!

Currently, there is no direct election of judges in Marion County. Bottom line, if a political party slates you, you have a seat. (That's how the wife of the Democratic chairman got her seat. After all the IBA gave her a failing recommendation.)

Merit hiring would be best. -Of course, there needs to be more review of judges such that those who are losing/have lost their faculties and sleep on the bench, issue outrageous rulings in total disregard of law, and are quite clearly demented can be taken off the bench. Marion County has seen some problems with that as well.

Paul K. Ogden said...


That ship has sailed and it ain't coming back. In 17 slating contests we had this year, 16 were unopposed. The candidates know the party bosses will have the system greased because of all the appointments that can be made to influence the outcome.

I agree that slating in its pure form, with only elected PCs participating, is workable. But the party bosses are not about to give up their power to rig the vote through appointments. And they're certainly not going to give it up until people start challenging the slate.

Regardless, the payment of the $12,000 plus slating fee is clearly a violation of the Judicial Code. The notion that it's "voluntary" is laughable. You don't pay it, you don't get slated.

I do agree with you regarding problems with the other systems. I haven't seen a good system for selecting judges. I just know that the slating system used in Marion County, that allow party bosses and not the electorate to pick the judges, is the worst possible system.

Jon Easter said...

Massa was clearly a political appointment that no one voted on. At least with slating, you have a vote.

Now, we can talk about how valid the vote is. Massa wasn't nearly as qualified as the two other candidates to be a Supreme Court Justice. This is like when W. briefly nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Only she was a woman!

Daniels apparently looked over an appellate judge and a highly-qualified female to thank Massa for running for Prosecutor after he talked him into running and after he lost.

Daniels has no credibility on this.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The Governor will blame the fact that more qualified female candidates didn't apply for the job. What concerns me is that there always seems to be insider knowledge about who has the inside track on Supreme Court openings. As a consequence, many qualified candidates simply don't waste the enormous amount of time and energy that must be committed to applying for a vacancy on the court. Also, people complain that the Judicial Nominating Commission sometimes overlooks more qualified candidates in the pool, which gives the governor cover to appoint the one finalist the Commission already seems to know that the Commission favors. I'm not saying that's the actual case, but that's the perception out there in the legal community.