Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

February 21, 2012

Daniels may face issues with court pick

BATESVILLE — For the second time in less than a year, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels may have the chance to consider appointing a woman to the state's all-male top court.

But to do so, the three women still in the running for the seat must get through another round of interviews with a judicial nominating committee charged with vetting candidates for the Indiana Supreme Court.

Next Thursday (FEB 23), the seven-member commission begins its second round of interviews with the seven semi-finalists selected from a field of 15 people who applied to fill the seat to be vacated in March by retiring Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

Gender isn't on the official list of criteria that state statute requires the nominating commission to consider when assessing those candidates. But it may still be factor: Of the 106 justices who've sat on the Indiana Supreme Court, only one has been a woman.

"There's some catching up to do," said Joel Schumm, a longtime court observer and a professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

How much pressure either the commission or the governor feels to "catch up" that history remains to be seen. The commission must pick three names to send to the governor, who filled the last court opening with a man: former Boone County judge Steven David, who was appointed last October from a field of three that included one woman.

At the time, Daniels said gender could be used as "tie breaker" if two judicial candidates were equal.

Brian Howey, a political analyst and publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, said he doubts Daniels will see things differently this time. "I don't think he feels a need to make a decision based on gender."

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