Black legislative leaders say proposed changes to Marion County's judicial selection process would disenfranchise voters and limit diversity on the bench.
The plan calls for a merit-selection committee to nominate judges to be chosen by the governor, duplicating the process used in appellate courts. The Indiana House has already approved the measure, which has received equal amounts of praise, criticism and cautious approval in the state's legal community.
A court challenge is likely if the bill becomes law because members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus vehemently oppose it, The Indianapolis Star reported.
"While it is disappointing to see that the House has chosen to support such a policy, there is time for the people to convince the Indiana Senate to realize the mistakes being made here, and provide a different path," said Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis.
Supporters say the bill offers a well-balanced approach that gives voters, party leaders and members of the legal community some control over the judicial selection process.
"The Indianapolis Bar Association has long supported merit selection for our judges," said Nissa Ricafort, president of the organization. "We want the best judges on our bench and we believe that HB 1036 asks the right questions to get the best judges."
After announcing his retirement from the Indiana Supreme Court, Justice Robert D. Rucker said he is confident in the process of merit selection for the appellate courts. Rucker, the first African-American male justice on the court, said the system draws "radical moderates" to the bench.