RICH JAMES: Don't be surprised if Schiralli doesn't apply

2013-05-22T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Don't be surprised if Schiralli doesn't applyBy Rich James nwitimes.com
May 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

What is it with some judges when they put on the robe? It’s as if they just graduated from the University of Omnipotence.

Look to the fight over the vacant Lake Superior Court Juvenile Division judgeship.

The bravado began when Lake Superior Court Chief Judge John Pera said County Division Judge Nicholas Schiralli had every right to slide into the Juvenile Court job.

Pera said that even though state law requires a judge wanting to transfer to a different court must have gone through the Judicial Nominating Commission process. Schiralli never did.

Pera called that requirement “a legislative overreach.” He added the law was unconstitutional because Lake County’s local transfer rule supersedes state law. I suppose he also thinks the Indiana Constitution supersedes U.S. Constitution.

Three sitting Juvenile Court magistrates weren’t about to embrace the protestations of Pera and the other county judges.

Magistrates Glenn Commons, Jeffery Miller and Charlotte Peller filed suit to stop Schiralli, saying they were being blocked at a chance for career advancement.

Lo and behold, the Supreme Court told Pera state law bars Schiralli from changing courts because he wasn’t a product of the nominating commission. Cut and dried.

But in acknowledging the high court’s ruling, Pera still wouldn’t genuflect to state law. He called the legal mess “a bona fide dispute” that had to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

I guess that’s what a judge says when he knows he was wrong and wants to save face.

But, hey, it’s hard to shake what happens to a guy when he puts on that robe.

No other sitting Lake County judge — most of who have gone through the Judicial Nominating Commission process — has said he or she wants to shift to the Juvenile Court.

That means the commission will begin accepting applications, interview candidates and send three names to the governor who will select one.

And just who do you think ought to be the first candidate? I would have to think would be Schiralli, given his interest in taking over the Juvenile Court.

But don’t bet the farm on it. The safe bet is that Schiralli won’t apply.

If he can’t have the court handed to him, it would be too much work to draw up a resume. And it would be too much of an embarrassment not to get the job.

And for the future, let me make this suggestion. Eliminate the state law that allows Lake County judges to transfer if they have gone through the nominating commission process. All courts aren’t the same.

All judges should be selected on merit, not a law that says they are privileged because they have a robe in the closet.

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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