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Marion County voters will determine if 18 judges are retained

marion county court.jpg
Posted at 10:37 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 17:28:11-04

MARION COUNTY — 18 Marion County judges will appear on the ballot in November. Voters will decide to keep them on the bench or not, and two others will be appointed.

WRTV’s Rachael Wilkerson sat down with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Bob Altice and IU McKinney School of Law professor Joel Schumm about the process to the get judges on the bench and explain why Marion County is much different than most of the state.

Come November 5, Marion County judges will be on the ballot.

Voters will determine whether or not those judges should be retained in office.

The seats of two other judges that are retiring this year will be appointed by the governor after a Judicial Selection Committee recommendation.

Schumm says the judges were selected by a merit selection process where a committee interviews the candidates.

“Then the governor appoints one of the top three candidates. After that, they run for retention. So, every six years, voters can vote yes or no,” Schumm said.

It's a process that was changed six-years-ago.

The Committee was established by the Indiana General Assembly in 2017.

Indiana law IC 33-33-49-13.1 to 33-33-49-13.7 provides the framework for the duties and membership of the Committee.

It held an organizational meeting in November to lay the groundwork for selecting nominees and making recommendations concerning the retention of judges in Marion County.

"So, part of the reason we changed the law was to get politics out of our court system," said Judge Altice.

Before the law change, Marion County voters elected judges, but Altice says the process was ultimately found to be unconstitutional.

"The original way we used to do this is candidates had to raise money — most of that money went to the party and it was upwards anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 — and then you look and see where that money came from, it was coming from lawyers, the very lawyers that were practicing in the courts, where the judges were practicing," said Judge Altice.

Judge Altice says the merit selection process takes money out of the picture, although political parties are still involved.

“I could walk up to anybody on the street and ask them to list two judges on the Marion Superior Court, and they might get one but probably will get zero,” said Judge Altice. “So that’s why we think this is a better way to select judges because it allows those candidates to be vetted prior to appearing on the ballot.”

Following some judge's cases, community members have questioned this process.

“I think you have to look at a judge’s total record,” said Schumm. “I worry when people focus on just one case and not what a judge has done over the whole six years or over their whole career.”

Community members have a chance to hear from the judges up for a retention vote.

Public interviews will happen in room 319 at the statehouse on June 11 from 9:45 a.m. until 1 p.m.