INDIANAPOLIS—On Thursday, State Senator Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) offered several amendments to House Bill (HB) 1453 on the Senate floor. HB 1453 would modify the current number of individuals who can serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission (Commission) for the Lake and St. Joseph superior courts. Under HB 1453, the Commission would be required to have five voting members, with two voting members appointed by the governor and two voting members appointed by the County Board of Commissioners. The Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court or the Chief Justice’s designee would serve as a voting member to resolve tie votes and as chairperson.
Sen. Randolph’s amendment number 4 would have struck language from the bill referencing Lake County.
“Right now, there are nine members on the Commission in Lake Country—four are minorities. Now, with this bill, we’re reducing that number to five and including no guarantee that anyone on the commission has to be a minority. Even with the author’s amendment requiring one of the members to be a minority under this new language, this just isn’t a good move,” Sen. Randolph said. “It hurts Lake County and takes us backwards in terms of promoting diversity and ensuring adequate representation.
“Why the Indiana General Assembly has made a habit of constantly picking on Lake County—I don’t know. What I do know is that the people of Lake County deserve to have a Commission that is reflective of their community. Every witness from Lake County who came down to testify on HB 1453 was in opposition to this bill. The fact that the General Assembly decided to advance this proposal despite local opposition is disappointing to see.”
Sen. Randolph’s amendments 5 and 6 would have made the provisions in the bill applicable to Allen and Marion Counties.
“In the state of Indiana, we have 92 counties. Of those counties, 88 require members on the Judicial Nominating Commission to be elected. Only four counties appoint members on a merit-basis, giving the governor direct appointment selection: those counties are St. Joseph, Lake, Allen and Marion county.
“If our aim is to be consistent, maintain fairness and promote unanimity, then proposed changes to the Lake County nomination system should be made to the others. All I asked is for the same treatment, respect and consideration granted to Marion and Allen County who were excluded from these changes to be given to Lake County. I’m disappointed that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle rejected my proposals to ensure fair, consistent treatment. To support changing the judicial nominating commission in Lake County, but in none of the other counties that have the same system, is clearly biased and unfair. This is a clear lack of respect and recognition for the existing judicial system in Lake County.”
Sen. Randolph’s amendments were all voted down.