Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lake County Judges Ignore State Law They Deem Unconstitutional

Lake County judges don't like a state law that requires them to go through merit selection before transferring one of their own to a different court, which they consider unconstitutional, so they are simply choosing to ignore it. The latest controversy arose after Gov. Mike Pence named the county's juvenile court judge, Mary Beth Bonaventura, as the state's new Director of Child Services. After Lake Co. judges announced they would be choosing her replacement, Bonaventura penned a letter to the state's Supreme Court seeking their intervention in the matter. An Indiana University School of Law professor at Indianapolis tells the Northwest Indiana Times the Lake Co. judges are setting a bad precedent.
Joel Schumm, a clinical professor of law at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said the judges set a "dangerous precedent" by deciding on their own that a statute is unconstitutional. He said the constitutionality of a law typically is determined through a court case and argument from both parties.
"I'm not familiar with a court, on its own, ever deciding to do something like this," Schumm said.
He said Bonaventura's strongest argument is that Schiralli cannot transfer into juvenile court because it would be against state law for him to do so. Schumm said her other arguments — including her suggestion that a current merit-selected judge could not be reassigned to the juvenile division — are on shakier ground.
A similar transfer recently occurred in the superior court system in Allen County.
"I cannot imagine that the Indiana Supreme Court is eager to be dragged into a dispute between Judge Bonaventura, a long-serving and well-respected judge, and her distinguished colleagues who are also well-known to the justices," Schumm said. "But I don’t see how the court can ignore the issue at this point."
You can read Chief Judge John Pera's letter to the Indiana Supreme Court here explaining why they view the state law unconstitutional. The part of the state law I've always found suspect is how we require merit selection of trial court judges in some counties like Lake County but not others. Marion County has the most corrupt system in the nation for selecting judges, which essentially allows a handful of power brokers in each  party to meet behind closed doors and select judges from a small group of people who agree to pay money to the respective county parties in consideration for their selection as a judge. It doesn't get worse than that. Although the judicial candidates' names appear on the ballot, the voters are given no other choice than those chosen by the two parties.

1 comment:

Unigov said...

I suggest Joel Schumm get out of the academic life and check out how politics really works. Legislators pass laws all the time that are unconstitutional or illegal, same thing.

Without understanding this article very well (me not lawyer, me normal person!), my money is on the group of judges.