Magistrates sue to keep judge from moving to Lake County juvie court
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent March 21, 2013 9:19PM
Nicholas Schiralli, Lake County Superior Court Judge. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: April 23, 2013 2:21PM
CROWN POINT— Indiana’s Supreme Court Thursday issued an emergency stay preventing Lake Superior Judge Nicholas Schiralli from taking over as Lake County juvenile judge next week.
The motion was in response to a suit filed Wednesday by three Lake County Juvenile Court magistrates challenging the method by which Schiralli was selected to replace retiring Juvenile Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, who has been tapped to become the head of the Indiana Department of Child Services in Indianapolis. Bonaventura’s last day is Sunday.
Attorney Cordell Funk is representing Magistrates Glenn Commons, Jeffrey Miller and Charlotte Peller, who have served as magistrate judges in the juvenile court for more than 60 years between them.
Funk said the three are suing because they say the judge replacing Bonaventura should be selected based on merit, not seniority. The suit claims the “transfer rule” that was used by the judges to allow Schiralli to move from the county court to the juvenile court does not apply and therefore Schiralli is ineligible to take the position. Due to their experience in the court, Funk said the three would be “ideal candidates” for Bonaventura’s replacement.
“The ‘transfer rule’ is actuality (sic) only a local case management order for calendar year 2000 that controlled the distribution of cases between the various courts in Lake County for that year,” according to the complaint.
Since the rule was temporary, the position must be filled through the merit selection process, they claim in the complaint. Bonaventura was originally selected in 1993 for the position through the merit process.
According to the Supreme Court’s emergency writ issued Thursday, the Lake County Superior Court judges have until April 8 to file a response to the suit. In the meantime the Supreme Court will appoint a temporary judge to fill in while the case is decided.
Funk said the case is somewhat unique in that most cases heard by the Supreme Court get there through the appeals process. This case is going directly before the Supreme Court. There are also some state constitutional issues in play.
“In this case the (Indiana) Attorney General may get involved with the interpretation of statute here,” Funk said. It is possible the respondents may call the constitutionality of a portion of the statute.
Bryan Corbin, Public Information Officer for the Attorney General, said in a release: “The Office of the Indiana Attorney General will not represent either side in a dispute over filling a judicial vacancy, but may seek to intervene if necessary to defend the existing state law governing the process of merit selection of Lake County Superior Court judges...”
The stay will be in place until the court has a chance to hear and rule on the motion for a permanent injunction.
Schiralli and Bonaventura could not immediately be reached for comment.