Judicial selection in Indiana
|Judicial selection in Indiana|
|Indiana Supreme Court|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
|Indiana Court of Appeals|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
|Indiana Circuit Courts|
|Indiana Superior Courts|
- 1 Supreme Court and Court of Appeals
- 2 Circuit Court and Superior Court
- 3 Limited jurisdiction courts
- 4 Commission on Judicial Qualifications
- 5 News
- 6 History of the Court
- 7 Selection of federal judges
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 References
Selection of state court judges in Indiana occurs through the commission-selection, political appointment method or through partisan elections, depending on the level of the court. Some exceptions apply at the level of the circuit and superior courts, where judges are sometimes chosen in non-partisan elections or by commission-selection and political appointment. Judges wishing to serve for more than one term may run for retention or re-election, respective to how they were chosen.
Judges' terms begin on January 1 following their election.
Supreme Court and Court of Appeals
The 5 justices of the Indiana Supreme Court and the 15 judges of the Indiana Court of Appeals are selected in an identical manner. When a vacancy appears on one of the courts, the Commission on Judicial Qualifications provides the names of three nominees to the governor, who must select a judge from that list.
To serve on either of these two courts, a judge must be:
- a U.S. citizen;
- a state resident;
- admitted to practice law in the state for at least 10 years or have served as a trial court judge for at leaset 5 years; and
- under the age of 80 (retirement at 80 is mandatory).
The Indiana Senate raised the mandatory retirement age from 75 to 80 in January 2015, but judges who were retained under the old retirement law are still bound by it. Judges wishing to serve after reaching the retirement age may apply for senior judge status through the Indiana government website.
Selection of the chief justice or judge
The chief justice of the supreme court is chosen by the judicial nominating commission and serves in that capacity for five years. The court of appeals selects its chief judge by peer vote, and he or she serves for three years.
Circuit Court and Superior Court
- See also: Partisan election of judges
The 102 judges of the Indiana Circuit Courts and the 196 judges of the Indiana Superior Courts are generally chosen in an identical manner. Judges are elected in partisan elections to six-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to serve additional terms. To learn more about these elections, visit the Indiana judicial elections page.
Some exceptions apply:
- Circuit court judges in Vanderburgh County and superior court judges from Allen County are chosen in non-partisan elections.
- Superior court judges from the counties of Lake and St. Joseph are appointed by the governor from lists of potential candidates submitted by the local nominating commissions (this excluding judges of Lake County's county division superior court, who must be elected). Judges then stand for retention in the first general election taking place two or more years after their appointment.
Though some counties have imposed additional qualifications, a judge serving on these courts must at least be:
- a circuit resident and
- admitted to practice law in the state.
Selection of the chief judge
The process of selecting a chief judge varies in the superior and circuit courts, as does the chief's term length.
Limited jurisdiction courts
|Tax Court||Probate Court||County Court||City Court||Town Court||Small Claims Court|
|Selection:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.||Partisan election||Partisan election||Partisan election||Partisan election||Partisan election|
|Re-election method:||Retention election||Re-election||Re-election||Re-election||Re-election||Re-election|
|Qualifications:||State resident for at leaset 2 years; admitted to practice law in the state for at least 5 years||Admitted to practice law in the state||U.S. citizen; county resident; admitted to practice law in the state||City resident (some cities also require that judges be attorneys)||Varies (some towns require that judges be attorneys)||U.S. citizen; county resident; admitted to state practice; township resident for at least 1 year or elected as town court judge before 1999|
Commission on Judicial Qualifications
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications recruits and interviews candidates to fill vacancies on the supreme court, the appeals court, and the tax court. The commission submits a list of three potential candidates to the governor, who must appoint one as judge. Moreover, the commission is responsible for selecting the chief justice of the supreme court (from among the five sitting justices) and for certifying former Indiana judges as senior judges.
The commission consists of seven members:
- the chief justice of the supreme court (who serves as chair);
- one lawyer from each of the three court of appeals districts (appointed by bar members of that district); and
- one non-lawyer from each of the three court of appeals districts (appointed by the governor).
Commission members serve three-year terms and can not be re-appointed or re-elected.
Bill to raise mandatory retirement age to 80 passes in Senate
The Indiana State Senate narrowly passed a bill calling for a five-year increase in the mandatory judicial retirement age for appellate court judges. The proposal, which was narrowly approved 27-20 in January, has been sent to the House for further consideration.
If approved, the measure would increase the mandatory retirement age from 75 to 80. Because the state constitution holds judges to the retirement age in effect at the time of their last retention election, the policy would apply only to future judges of the supreme court and court of appeals.
Opponents of the bill argue that a higher retirement age prevents younger lawyers from joining the judiciary, while supporters welcome the opportunity to keep experienced judges on the bench.
History of the Court
Judicial selection methods in Indiana have undergone several changes in the last 200 years. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.
- 1986: The Indiana Tax Court is created, its judges being chosen through merit selection.
- 1970: A constitutional amendment modifies the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Circuit Courts. Appellate court judges are to be appointed to ten-year terms by the governor with help from a nominating commission; circuit court judges are to be chosen in partisan elections to serve six-year terms. (The amendement went into effect in 1972.)
- 1881: Criminal court judges are to be elected by the people to four-year terms.
- 1891: The Indiana Court of Appeals is created by the general assembly, with judges to be elected by popular vote to four-year terms.
- 1871: Superior court judges serve for four years instead of six.
- 1851: All judges are elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
- 1816: Indiana supreme court justices are appointed to seven-year terms by the governor with the senate's consent. "Presidents" of the circuit courts are appointed by the general assembly while associate circuit judges are elected by the people to seven-year terms.
Selection of federal judges
United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.
The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.
|Step||Candidacy Proceeds||Candidacy Halts|
|1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President||President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee||President declines nomination|
|2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate||Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation||Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee|
|3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation||Candidate becomes federal judge||Candidate does not receive judgeship|
- Indiana judicial elections
- commission-selection, political appointment method
- Partisan election of judges
- Non-partisan election of judges
- Retention election
- Courts in Indiana
- Indiana Secretary of State, "Indiana Election Division"
- The News-Sentinel, "Retirement of Indiana chief justice highlights 'palace intrigues'," January 18, 2012
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Indiana," archived October 2, 2014
- Indiana Law Blog, "Ind. Courts - Mandatory Retirement Age for Trial Court Judges," accessed July 14, 2014
- Indiana Courts, "About the Commissions," accessed August 25, 2014
- NWI Times, "Senate adds 5 years to appellate judge retirement age," January 30, 2015
- Indiana Courts, "Application for Certification as a Senior Judge," 2012
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Indiana; Limited Jurisdiction Courts," archived October 2, 2014
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Indiana; Judicial Nominating Commissions," archived October 2, 2014
- Northwest Indiana Times, "Senate adds 5 years to appellate judge retirement age," January 30, 2015
- American Judicature Society, "History of Reform Efforts in Indiana: Formal Changes Since Inception," archived October 2, 2014
- US Courts, "FAQ: Federal Judges," accessed March 26, 2015