Elected judges proposal for St. Joseph County heard

A proposal to let St. Joseph County residents elect their Superior Court judges is pending before a state panel in Indianapolis.

The Indiana Commission on Courts today took some two hours of testimony on the measure.

Since 1973, judges in St. Joseph County have been appointed by the governor, and some wonder why.

Residents in 90-other Indiana counties still elect their judges.

“The main thing some constituents in my district want to have come is accountability,” said the sponsor of the measure, Ind. Rep. Ryan Dvorak, (D) South Bend. “Whether or not the judge is performing their job adequately right now, the decision is left up to the governor to make the appointment, and the constituents, the voters of St. Joseph County don’t have the say in the process like everyone else in the State of Indiana does.”

The mother of a slain South Bend police officer spoke in favor of a change to elected judges. Kathy Karczewski asked if the merit system was so good, why weren’t other Indiana counties fighting to switch to the merit system. Karczewski is the mother of slain officer Scott Severns.

An overwhelming majority of the speakers heard today spoke in favor of keeping the so-called merit system of appointing judges. “I think the bottom line is our merit selection system in St. Joseph County has worked extremely well for the citizens of the county for over 32-years, and I have never heard a good reason to change it,” said St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis

The commission did not vote on the recommendation today. That will happen at a future meeting, possibly as early as next week.

The commission is an advisory panel that makes recommendations to the Indiana General Assembly.

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