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Legislative And Executive Branches Eye Judicial Branch: More Power! Now!

PowerlineAnyone legal junkies got thoughts on this brief from today's legislative round-up in the Star? It's largely under the radar right now:

"Indiana would be the first state to place on the ballot a statement advising voters whether to retain or reject supreme and appellate court judges, under a bill approved along partisan lines Monday in the House Rules Committee.

"Supreme and appellate court judges are initially appointed by the governor but must win the support of voters to be retained for additional terms. House Bill 1419 would allow the judicial nominating commission the power to put on the ballot a statement whether they recommend that that judge be retained or not.

"The bill also essentially fires the current six members of the commission and replaces them with three members appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels and three chosen by attorneys from a list picked by the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore -- currently all Republicans.

"Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, said change is needed, because past governors have only picked judges from their party."


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In defense of the Star's reporters, I believe there was a strong push from the Statehouse crew to cover this.

One more example of a childish rw mimic of a childish rw White House.. "monkey see, monkey do"?

This is one more piece of flawed logic and deception from the Statehouse. To prevent political favoritism we are going to allow one party to essentially appoint all the members of the comission.
Go figure.

I agree with Jeezus here. I wonder if the Star has truly thought through the long term implications here. Their job as the fourth estate is to deliver the truth unfiltered; that didn't happen today. But, to be fair, the fact that the Star is the only major Indiana newspaper not raising serious questions about this deal should not be surprising. After all, their readers will be the only citizens of this state who will benefit from this short-sighted scheme.

Not that it will matter, but I'd love to get Matt Tully's reaction in 2016 after this state sell-off's infusion is long gone and our state assets are owned by foreign interests (ohhh, scary word Matt!!). But, like Mitch Daniels, Matt will be long gone and someone else will be here to deny responsibility.

It would be so nice if our media in Indianapolis could think past the short term gratification and think about the long term health of our state. Mitch Daniels has a legacy to think about, and so does the Star. Think, people, think.

Amazing to me that on a day when there is a frontal assault on our state judiciary, one co-equal branch of government, the state's largest newspaper, who has a reporter cover the entire proceeding decides to give it three paragraphs buried on page B-3. If the editors had paid attention they would have heard that the Indiana Judges Association, the Indiana State Bar Association, the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, the Indiana Defense Bar, the Indianapolis Bar Association all testified that this was a bad bill. When you have the defense bar and the plaintiff's bar agreeing that a bill is bad, you have a pretty bad piece of legislation. Yet the Star chose to run an advertisement on ther front page for the Governor's Major Moves package. It is an interesting editorial decision to say the least. By the way, all that was announced was what the company was willing to pay for the lease. No details about the proposal, no critical analysis of the many possible policy implications. Instead there was ( to be charitable) a snarky column that was critical of Pat Bauer for raising serious questions about this proposal. I thought one of the jobs of the opposition was to raise questions, be critical. Instead, this columnist chose to ignore most of Bauer's message and accuse him of just being old school. I guess new school politics is naked power grabs and upsetting the balance of power that was enshrined in our Constitution. Today might be a new low for the Indianapolis Star.

This latest Republican effort to intimidate the only branch of state government they don't now control reminds me of the Marion County ballot dispute I handled in 2004 over the R's bright idea to deface the ballot with the "A-Team" designation. I have two legal/constitutional observations. First, this appears to be an effort to amend the Indiana Constitutional provision creating the Judicial Nominating Commission by statute; however, the Constitution can only be changed by constitutional amendment. Second, cases across the country, including a specific one from Idaho that I recall, have held that such ballot legends abridge and interfere with the First Amendment right of voters to vote freely. So even if these cave-dwellers pass this piece of crap, I would hope some judges on the court of appeals would be willing to challenge its constitutionality. After all, the only thing at stake is the continued independence of the judicial branch of state government.

Looks like a naked power grab. My thoughts:

Get rid of the parts where the recommendation is printed on the ballot and where Mitch Daniels gets to kick off all of the current non-attorney members of the commission (regardless of when their terms actually expire) and replace them with his own fresh batch, and I don't have much of a problem with it.

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