EDITORIAL: Why mediation when state law is clear?

2013-04-01T15:24:00Z 2013-04-02T15:53:04Z EDITORIAL: Why mediation when state law is clear? nwitimes.com
April 01, 2013 3:24 pm  • 

The Indiana Supreme Court's decision to use a mediator to settle a dispute over the Lake Juvenile Court vacancy is baffling. What is there to mediate? The law is the law.

The facts of the case are simple enough.

Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli announced he would stake a claim on the judgeship, based on seniority, and Lake Juvenile Court magistrates Glenn Commons, Jeffery Miller and Charlotte Peller filed suit last month to stop him.

The magistrates, of course, want the opportunity to apply for the job. The public should want the best applicant chosen, which is why state law must be followed.

State law prohibits the transfer of a judge who has not gone through merit selection. Schiralli is Exhibit A.

Schiralli was elected judge before a legislative reform that requires merit selection for new vacancies in that branch of the Lake Superior Court as well.

He obviously wants the Juvenile Court job, so make him follow the same procedures -- prescribed by law -- as everyone else.

The Lake Juvenile Court vacancy occurred because Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura stepped down to become director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Bonaventura objected to Schiralli's plan to slide over to the Juvenile Court bench without going through the required merit selection process. Good for her.

The Indiana Supreme Court earlier named Senior Judge Thomas W. Webber Sr. to be a pinch-hitter while this dispute is sorted out.

Now the high court has appointed retired Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. to act as mediator.

"This court expects the mediation process to begin promptly and to proceed with all due deliberate focus," the court order issued Monday said.

The court set a May 23 deadline for this mediation process.

It shouldn't have to come to that. The law requires the merit selection process to fill this vacancy, but Schiralli and other Lake Superior Court judges want to circumvent the law and use seniority instead. That's wrong. Judges, just like everyone else, must follow the law. What's so hard to understand about that?

Mediation shouldn't be necessary to resolve a dispute where the law is clear.

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