The Indiana Supreme Court is ordering mediation in the Lake Superior Court judges and magistrates' legal tussle over how to fill the Lake Juvenile Court vacancy, court records filed Monday show.
Lake Juvenile Court magistrates Glenn Commons, Jeffery Miller and Charlotte Peller sued last month to stop Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli from taking the position vacated by former Juvenile Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura.
Bonaventura left the bench to become the new director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Schiralli, who did not go through merit selection, had planned to transfer into the Lake Juvenile Court vacancy based on seniority, even though his move would violate a state law prohibiting the transfer of a judge who has not gone through merit selection.
Through merit selection, a Judicial Nominating Commission interviews applicants and chooses three finalists to present to the governor, who has final choice.
On Monday, the high court appointed retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. to act as mediator in the lawsuit. The justices said Sullivan also may invite the Indiana attorney general's office to attend the mediation, court records show.
The parties have until May 13 to resolve the case through mediation.
Schiralli and the other Lake Superior Court judges — except for Bonaventura — voted to ignore the state law, because it was "a legislative overreach" and "unconstitutional," according to a letter written by Chief Superior Court Judge John Pera. They also voted to allow a judge to transfer into the position.
Magistrates Commons, Miller and Peller, all of whom have been serving in the juvenile court for two decades, sued all 16 Lake Superior Court judges and the Lake Circuit Court judge to block Schiralli's transfer. The magistrates argued Schiralli's move would harm their opportunity for career advancement and open the juvenile court to other legal challenges.
Commons, Miller and Peller said the judges "exceeded their authority," according to the emergency petition.
The Indiana Supreme Court named Senior Judge Thomas W. Webber Sr. to serve as the temporary Juvenile Court judge pending the outcome of the petition.