INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence is siding with Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, his new director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, in favoring merit selection to replace her as head of Lake County's Juvenile Court.
The Republican governor told reporters Wednesday that Bonaventura was chosen through merit selection, has done an outstanding job as juvenile court judge and her successor should be picked the same way.
"I think Lake County, under Judge Bonaventura, has become a model for the nation with its juvenile court system," Pence said. "I think it's extremely important that the families and communities and kids that are affected by that receive the same level of service and leadership that they've received over the last 30 years."
Under merit selection, which is intended to remove politics from the courtroom, Pence would appoint the new juvenile court judge from among three candidates recommended by a nine-member panel headed by Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native.
Bonaventura last week asked Indiana's high court to prevent Judge Nicholas Schiralli from becoming the new juvenile division leader because he was initially elected judge, not chosen through merit selection, and shouldn't be eligible to transfer to the juvenile court post.
Pence said he's been monitoring the dispute and hopes it can be resolved in a way that satisfies all parties, but reiterated he supports merit selection for Bonaventura's replacement.
"It can officially be the first time that I agree with Judge Bonaventura," Pence said. "So you can put me down as a yes."