Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission
The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission, which also serves as the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission, is a seven member panel chosen by the Indiana Bar Association and the Governor of Indiana to select judges to serve on the Indiana Circuit Court, Indiana Court of Appeals, and the Indiana Supreme Court. The commission is part of the Judicial Branch of the state government and reports directly to the state Supreme Court.
The commission is responsible for creating a list of three candidates to fill vacant positions on the state judiciary. The commission follows a set of guidelines in the state constitution to determine eligibility for the positions, and to ensure that they only nominate the best qualified candidates that are available. The Governor then chooses a candidate from the list to fill the vacant position. The commission has the authority to choose who, among the sitting supreme court associate justices, who will serve as Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, and to certify who will be the senior judges on the lower state courts. The commission is also responsible for determining the qualifications of candidates who apply for state judgeship.
The commission is responsible for addressing complaint about the courts and investigating problems within the courts. The commission also audits the judges to ensure compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct. Although the commissions has no power to enforce its decisions, it does submit reports to the Supreme Court who decide what portion of their recommendations should be followed.
The commission is a constitutional body established by article six of the Constitution of Indiana. In addition to its constitutional authority the Indiana General Assembly has granted the commission additional statutory authority in the Indiana Code.
The commission has a total of seven members and is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. Three of the members are citizens of Indiana appointed by the governor. Three other members are lawyers elected by the Indiana Bar Association. The Commission was established in 1970 by a constitutional amendment to replace the previous system of electing governors.
Under the original 1816 constitution of Indiana, judges were appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Indiana Senate, and would serve terms of six years. The system came to be criticized when Governor James B. Ray refused to reappoint two members of the Supreme Court for political reasons. A similar situation occurred during the term of Governor James Whitcomb when he also refused to reappoint two members because he thought they were too slow to resolve cases. In 1851, Indiana adopted a new constitution and the positions on the courts were made publicly elected offices, but that method too quickly came under criticism as the position became even more politicized. The courts remained publicly elected until a series of amendments were passed in 1970 and 1971 that reorganized the state courts and established the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission to replace the method of publicly electing judges. The new system was intended to make to judicial branch of the government more independent by giving it measure of control over selecting its own members, but limiting their power by making their choice subject to the approval of the governor.
- Woollen, William Wesley (1975). Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana. Ayer Publishing. ISBN 0-405-06896-4.