ELECTION OF INDIANA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES?
The Indiana legislature has recently been considering House Joint Resolution 9, which calls for the election of Indiana Supreme Court justices. Currently, potential justices are carefully considered and selected by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission, which then submits the names of finalists to the governor for final decision without regard to political affiliation. This is known as the merit selection system, and it has been in effect in Indiana since 1971. For a variety of reasons, I think that Joint Resolution 9 is a bad idea, and I am glad that, as of late this afternoon, the bill had not made it out of committee for consideration by the full House.
My primary reason for opposing the bill is that it would require potential justices to wade into the muck and mire of the political arena. They would have to organize extensive fundraising campaigns. They would be forced to solicit massive campaign contributions, and to court the approval of special interest groups who would hope to gain from the election of favorable justices. Rather than exercising only their independent legal judgment, they would have to be concerned about following the political mood of the day, and about pleasing their campaign supporters. All of this strikes me as being inherently bad.
The author of the bill, Rep. Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, has said that its passage is necessary because the justices are not currently accountable to the political process. I for one think that is a good thing. Our neighboring states that have systems for elected appellate judges have seen literally millions of dollars poured into the campaigns of candidates by special interest groups hoping to influence election outcomes. That situation has to undermine the public's confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.
For the most part, Indiana's merit selection process has worked very well over the years. The Indiana Supreme Court is greatly respected for its independence, fairness, and high ethical standing. I believe that our merit selection process is fine just as it is. I'm thankful that, at least for the time being, the House's Government and Regulatory Reform Committee apparently agrees.
Labels: Indiana Supreme Court