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Lake judges give Schiralli green light for Juvenile Court judge seat

Nicholas Schiralli Lake County Superior Court Judge. | File Photo~Sun-Times Medi         ptmet

Nicholas Schiralli, Lake County Superior Court Judge. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet

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Updated: April 4, 2013 6:54AM



Lake Superior Court judges recently backed colleague and long-time County Division Judge Nicholas Schiralli in his bid to transfer to the soon-to-be open Lake County Juvenile Court judge position without endorsing the move.

In an unusual move, Schiralli’s colleagues recently approved his requested transfer to Juvenile Court despite state law that otherwise may have blocked the move.

“We believe there is a body of precedents that says we can approve a judge who wasn’t appointed by a governor making a transfer move,” said one of the judges, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It wasn’t an endorsement of (Schiralli’s) move, but we think he should be allowed to transfer.”

Schiralli, 64, of Hobart, assumed a judgeship in County Division in the mid-1970s and was not appointed by a governor.

Section 38 of the relevant state code calls for gubernatorial appointments of judges, but part of an earlier section appears to indicate a judge who was not appointed by a governor cannot use his or her seniority to transfer to another vacant judicial seat.

The section that was in question reads “a judge of a division of the court who has not been appointed to the court under section 38 of this chapter is not eligible to be reassigned, rotated, or transferred to the other divisions of the court.”

Since 2000, Indiana law has allowed Lake Superior Court judges to transfer to open seats. Other judges can fill open seats until the movements settle, and the Lake County Judicial Nominating Commission then sends three candidates to the governor for selection of the remaining open seat.

In this case, the Juvenile Court judge’s seat opened up when long-time Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura last month announced her retirement after 31 years on the bench, to become the next director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Schiralli, the second longest-serving Lake Superior Court judge, jumped on the opportunity. The County Division, where he presided, largely handles misdemeanor cases in the criminal courts system.

Bonaventura initially planned to leave Crown Point Feb. 28, but she later changed her mind and delayed her retirement to wrap up unfinished business. She has not set a new date.

A judge’s ability to transfer or assume a seat like the one in Juvenile Court is no small matter. Along with taking over a much larger staff with a $6 million budget and the detention center, Schiralli will have the authority to keep or remove magistrates and a referee, all of whom serve at the judge’s pleasure, and other key personnel.



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