State Rep. Hatcher calls new judicial selection process “entirely unfair”

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INDIANAPOLIS — A bill giving the governor more control of selecting judges in four counties, including Lake County, passed the House yesterday and is headed to the Senate.

House Bill 1453 would change the number of members in the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) from nine to five but keep the number of judges selected by the governor at three. 

The JNC nominates and the governor appoints judges only in Lake, St. Joseph, Marion and Vanderburgh counties. In the rest of the counties in Indiana, the people elect their local judges in some form. Bar associations in the affected counties oppose the legislation.

State Representative Ragen Hatcher (D-Gary), who has experience as both a prosecutor and an attorney, voted against the bill.

“The citizens who appear in front of these judges should be the people to decide who sits on the bench,” Hatcher said. “These four counties — which have the largest minority populations in the state — are excluded from the electoral process, and I have to ask why.

“I don’t know how else to describe this selection process other than entirely unfair. It is unfair that the other 88 counties get to elect their own judges, then turn around and say to these four counties, ‘No, you don’t get to elect your judges, we’ll pick those for you.’”

The bill passed 63-31.

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