EDITORIAL: Demerits to Lake judges for disobeying law

2013-03-13T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Demerits to Lake judges for disobeying law nwitimes.com
March 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lake County's judicial selection process is a model the rest of the state should follow. It is shameful that some of Lake County's judges are attempting to circumvent it.

Lake Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, who is leaving that position to become the new director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, is outraged -- as she should be -- that her replacement on the bench could be chosen by seniority rather than merit.

Bonaventura has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to require the merit selection process be followed.

Lake Superior Court Chief Judge John Pera sent Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, his own lengthy letter Monday, arguing against a state law forbidding the transfer of a judge who has not gone through the merit selection process and asking that Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli be allowed to transfer to the juvenile court. 

Schiralli has been a judge longer than anyone but Judge Gerald Svetanoff, who doesn't want the juvenile court job.

This not about Schiralli's qualifications but about the selection process itself.

Joel Schumm, a clinical professor of law at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said having Lake County's judges decide this on their own is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent. Schumm doesn't see how the Indiana Supreme Court can avoid weighing in on this issue.

He's right.

Judges, of all people, should respect the law. This is Lake County at its ugliest.

Schiralli, who serves in the county division, was elected. That's a flaw in the state law that has since been corrected. Merit selection selection now applies to that position as well.

Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday he agrees with Bonaventura that state law requiring the merit selection process must be used.

Former Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard supported the merit selection law. His successor, Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, now chairs the state's Judicial Nominating Commission.

The Indiana Supreme Court now needs to support the application of the merit selection law in this situation.

Pick the best judge, not the most senior.

Going rogue might be in vogue, but not when it comes to our courts.

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