I noted back in June 2011 several members of the Indiana legislature were angered by an Indiana supreme court decision on the right of a homeowner to stop with force an unlawful entrance by a police officer. Several legislators indicated they would attempt to change the state’s merit selection system as a result. The court, in a September order granting rehearing, clarified some elements of their earlier decision, but the angst failed to melt away.
The first efforts to alter the state’s merit selection system have now been filed. SJR 13 of 2012 repeats almost verbatim SJR 1 of 2005, a previous effort to change merit selection that was approved by the state’s Senate in that year. The constitutional amendment:
- Renames the judicial nominating commission as the commission on judicial nominations and qualifications.
- Provides that one commission member will be selected by attorneys licensed in Indiana, one commission member will be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, and one commission member will be appointed by the president pro tem.
- Requires at least one commission member appointed by the governor to be an attorney
- Prohibits a person who is a registered lobbyist from serving on the commission.
- Provides for the governor to fill a vacancy on the supreme court or the court of appeals from nominees recommended by the commission on judicial nominations and qualifications, subject to confirmation by the senate.
- Provides that a justice of the supreme court and a judge of the court of appeals serves until July 1 of the tenth year after the justice’s or judge’s appointment is confirmed by the senate or the justice’s or judge’s retention in office is confirmed by the senate.
- Provides that if a justice or judge wants to serve a new term, the justice or judge must apply to the senate for retention.
- Specifies that a judge or justice will be retained, unless: (1) the judge or justice does not apply to the senate for retention; and (2) at least 60% of the members of the senate vote against retention.
While SJR 13 would make changes to the state’s merit selection system, SJR 14 goes even further, ending appellate merit selection, restructuring the state’s judicial disciplinary committee (the commission on judicial qualifications), and allowing judicial candidates to speak, participate in partisan activities, and act like candidates for other offices. Specifically, it provides:
- End merit selection and replaces with gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation.
- Requires appellate judges receive 60% of retention election vote to remain in office.
- Provides that a law, judicial rule, decree, or order may not abridge the freedom of a judge, lawyer, candidate for judicial office, or any other person from: (1) speaking, writing, or otherwise expressing the person’s views freely regarding a political issue, political party, or candidate for office, including a candidate for a judicial office; or (2) making a donation of money, services, or property to a political party or a candidate for office, including a candidate for a judicial office.
- Specifies the 3 members of the state’s commission on judicial qualifications chosen by the Governor may not be attorneys.
- Grants the legislature alone the power to set terms for commission members, their compensation, and the manner they are elected.