The Chief Justices of six states — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee — recently signed a charter to support a Regional Opioid Initiative already in place in those states. The courts’ commitment to the initiative recognizes that the epidemic crosses state borders and is most usefully addressed with a high level of cross-state cooperation. It also recognizes the key role of state judiciaries in combatting the epidemic.
We previously reported that Indiana legislators are considering a merit selection plan for the judges of Marion County (the Indianapolis area), in light of a Seventh Circuit decision holding the previous election slating process unconstitutional. Recently, both state legislators and the Indianapolis Bar Association have offered their own opinions of the proposed legislation.
Merit selection refers to a method of choosing state judges through a nominating commission, which typically selects three candidates and forwards the names to the governor for final selection. Judges chosen through merit selection are therefore pre-vetted for qualifications, skill, and judicial temperament. Most states with merit selection protect accountability to the public by appointing judges to set terms on the bench, after which they must seek reappointment or retention before the voters.
I have long championed merit selection as the best process for balancing quality judges and public accountability. The process is not perfect, but if done thoughtfully — with a balanced and inclusive nominating commission, sufficiently lengthy terms to allow a judge to grow professionally on the bench, and retention elections coupled with a transparent judicial evaluation process — they have proven to be very effective.
Many states around the country choose some or all of their judges through merit selection. And Indiana, which uses merit selection for trial judges in three large counties (Allen, Lake, and St. Joseph), is now poised to expand the system to Marion County as well.
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has issued an advisory opinion stating that live tweeting, microblogging, and other forms of “electronically relaying a written message” do not constitute broadcasting, and therefore do not fall under the general ban on broadcasting courtroom proceedings. The decision paves the way for journalists of all types to share information on live testimony through Twitter. Broadcasting video or audio of court proceedings is still prohibited, and trial judges still have discretion to restrict microblogging activity in any given proceeding or trial.
More on the background of the new opinion here.