The legislation, ignited by bar associations and members of the legal community who say proposed changes to judicial officer appointments would politicize the court’s benches in the Lake and St. Joseph counties, will be heard by a Senate committee Wednesday.
House Bill 1453 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee after the controversial proposal was passed by 63-31 votes in the House last month. The bill would change the composition of the judicial nomination committees for Lake and St. Joseph, remove the requirements for attorneys’ representation on the boards, and allow the governor, among other things, to appoint a majority of the commissioners.
The legislation was criticized by lawyers and lawmakers from northern Indiana counties before it was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in February with a 6-4-party vote.
As a result, the Indiana State Bar Association formally rejected the legislation. So did the Lake County Bar Association, which condemned the bill as “atrocities” and “political power play by parties that were not even within Lake County in order to deprive the Lake County people of even more power in choosing their judges.”
Lake Circuit judge Marissa McDermott has also spoken out against the legislation, writing in a comment from the Indiana attorney that the legislation raises broader questions as to why the selection of court judgments applies only to the most populous and diverse counties of Indiana.
“The indisputable truth is that there is a long legislative history in this nation with powerful majorities that diminishes and silences the votes of minorities,” wrote McDermott of HB 1453. “Although I have no reason to believe that the motive of the current legislation is racist, this law will undoubtedly have a disproportionately negative effect on citizens who happen to be racial minorities, or to use the legal term art, “disparate effects”. “
HB 1453 wasn’t the only legislative proposal that rocked the Indiana judiciary’s choice and led to outcry from legal groups and the legal community. Legislature also introduced Joint Senate Resolution 16, which would have allowed far greater participation of the General Assembly and the governor in the election of the judges and judges of the Indiana Supreme Court of Appeal, while the statewide ballot for maintaining jurisdiction in favor of Votes for keeping the legislation abolished.
The ISBA and others criticized the proposal to “politicize” the state appellate body. SJR 16 went unheard in the Senate.
The Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee meeting begins Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and can be viewed online here.