How Does One Become an Indiana Supreme Court Justice?

February 17, 2016

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

This week, thirty individuals will interview for the chance to become Indiana’s 109th Supreme Court Justice. But how does the process work exactly?

Following Justice Brent Dickson’s announcement that he was retiring, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications announced that it was accepting applications for the position. The Judicial Nominating Commission is comprised of both lawyers and non-lawyers, and is chaired by the Chief Justice. The current non-lawyer members, who are appointed by the Governor, are Lynette Long, David Tinkey, and Rudy Takym III. The lawyer members are elected by lawyers from each geographic district and include Charles Berger, Lee Christie, and John Feighner.

According to Indiana’s Constitution and by statute, the seven person commission must recruit and select candidates to fill the vacancy and present three candidates to the Governor for selection. The Commission is responsible for reviewing the applications, considering the applicants’ education and professional background, reputation, and writing ability. After receiving thirty applications, the Commission set interviews for the candidates. This week, those interviews are spread over the course of three days with nine individuals being interviewed on the first and last day, and twelve being interviewed on Thursday.

After that interview process, the Commission will narrow the field down, likely to between eight and twelve candidates for a second round of interviews. On March 3 and 4, 2016, the Commission will conduct a second round of interviews where it will narrow the remaining field to three candidates that will be submitted to the Governor for his consideration and final selection. In the event that the Governor does not select a candidate, the responsibility falls back to the Commission. However, to date, the Governor has never failed to select a candidate.

In this matter, the stakes are significant. As Chief Justice Rush noted in her open letter to the legal community, “[t]here is no replacing [Justice Dickson]—but there is also no doubt that Indiana’s 109th justice will leave their own mark of excellence on our profession.”

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