RICH JAMES: Children shouldn't see how judges are behaving

2013-04-07T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Children shouldn't see how judges are behavingBy Rich James nwitimes.com
April 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If someone made a movie about the effort to name a new Lake Superior Court Juvenile Division judge, it would have to be rated PG-13.

No, make it R. This isn’t something kids should see, particularly because of the mockery the judges on various levels are making of the judicial branch of government.

Let’s just say this isn’t the kind of government you read about in a civics book.

This isn’t about justice. No, it’s about greed and denial.

It all started more than a month ago when Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura was named director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Like a vulture circling over roadkill, the 15 judges in the Lake Superior Court system said the next Juvenile Court judge would be the one with the most seniority within their ranks. That was Judge Gerald Svetanoff, who declined.

County Division Judge Nicholas Schiralli, the next in line, said he wanted to take over the largest judicial operation in the county.

But there was one problem. State law provides a judge must have gone through the judicial nominating commission process if he is to fill a vacancy. Schiralli was appointed as opposed to going through the merit selection process. Merit selection interviews applicants and sends three finalists to the governor.

But, hey, why should judges let a law stand in their way?

Not a problem, said Chief Judge John Pera with the support of the other judges in the system.

Pera and company said the law was legislative “meddling” in the judicial system. He added it was a “legislative overreach” and “unconstitutional” to boot. Talk about being judge, jury and executioner.

Bonaventura asked the Supreme Court to block Schiralli. The court flipped her letter in the round file.

So Juvenile Court Magistrates Glenn Commons, Charlotte Peller and Jeffery Miller filed suit to stop Schiralli from taking over.

Since it now was facing a real lawsuit, the high court decided it had better get judicial. But like a hot flash, that surge of judiciousness quickly passed.

No, the justices said, we can still avoid dirtying our hands in this Lake County legal wrangling.

And on the Seventh Day they appointed a mediator. They gave him until May 13 to resolve the matter.

I’m not sure how one mediates the law. I always thought it was up to judges to see that the law is upheld.

I guess that is unless the question of law involves a bunch of judges.

And one judge wouldn’t want another to look bad. That’s one of the rules in the Good Old Boys and Girls Club called the judiciary.

On second thought, this thing is turning out to be X-rated.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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