Judicial selection in Lake and St. Joseph counties

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 1453 sponsored by Sen. Niemeyer and Sen. Rogers regarding judicial selection in Lake and St. Joseph counties. Rep. Aylesworth presented the bill which prior to amendment provided that the judicial nominating commission (commission) for the Lake and St. Joseph superior courts consists of five members, with three members appointed by the governor and two members appointed by the county board of commissioners. (Current law provides that the commission for the Lake Superior court consists of nine members and the commission for St. Joseph superior court consists of seven members.) The bill also provides that a member of the commission for: (1) the Lake Superior court shall reside in Lake County; and (2) the St. Joseph superior court shall reside in St. Joseph County. The bill repeals provisions concerning the appointment of non-attorney commissioners and the election of attorney commissioners to the commission. The bill also adds the Chief Justice of Indiana as an ex officio member of the commission. The bill also provides that after the commission has nominated and submitted to the governor the names of five persons to fill a vacancy in the Lake or St. Joseph superior court, the governor shall select the most qualified person to fill the vacancy. (Current law provides that the commission for the Lake Superior court nominate and submit to the governor the names of three people to fill a vacancy in the superior court.)

Amendment 7 was adopted by a vote of 8-2.  The amendment changed the selection of the five members of the commission.  Two of the members will be appointed by the local county board of commissioners, and two will be appointed by the governor.  There will be one attorney and one non-attorney for each group of two.  The fifth member will be the Chief Justice or designee and will be a non-voting member unless there is a tie.

The Indiana State Bar Association, St. Joseph County Bar Association, James C. Kimbrough Bar Association, Rudy Lozano Bar Association, St. Joseph Superior Court Judges, Lake County Bar Association, and a local St. Joseph county attorney testified in opposition of the bill.   A current member of St. Joseph County judicial nominating committee testified in support of the bill.  The bill passed 5-4.

Read the bill at:  http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2021/bills/house/1453