Gosh, there sure are a lot of people running for Judge in '18!
Yes, yes there are. However, there are three spots on the bench opening up in 2018, due to the retirements of Judge Marc Kellams (Seat 2, Div II), Judge Frances Hill (Seat 3, Div VI), and Judge Teresa Harper (Seat 8, Div IX). Here in Monroe County, we have nine judges, and each is separately elected. In other words, candidates have to declare which seat they are running for, rather than all candidates running against each other and the top three vote-getters being seated. Each seat is county-wide, so every voter in Monroe County will get to vote for one per seat. Here are the candidates known to-date for each seat (in alphabetical order)
Seat 2 (Division II)
- Chris Gaal
- Christine Talley Haseman
Seat 3 (Division VI)
- Jeff Kehr
- Catherine Stafford
Seat 8 (Division IX)
- Geoff Bradley
- Darcie Fawcett
- Alphonso Manns
What kinds of cases will the eventual Judge of this seat hear?
We tell our kids, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." That's pretty much how new judges get their assignments. Monroe County judges pick their caseloads (called a 'docket') by seniority. When the three retiring judges leave the bench, existing judges will have first crack at moving into the dockets of the retired judges and the three newly elected judges will then fill in whatever gaps are left.
Monroe has a unified circuit court, instead of dividing up into Superior Courts and Circuit Courts, as most other Indiana counties do. Our dockets are divided by civil (small claims, landlord-tenant, business, personal injury, family law, among other types) and criminal. We have two judges whose dockets are largely comprised of child abuse and neglect cases (called 'CHINS' for Child in Need of Services). We have a probate judge, who hears cases related to wills and trusts. We also have an appointed Commissioner who hears paternity and child support cases. Here's a description of each sitting judge and his or her docket:
Honorable Elizabeth A. Cure, Division I - Probate cases, Tort, Civil Plenary, Civil Collection and Mortgage Foreclosure cases
Honorable Marc R. Kellams, Division II - Criminal cases
Honorable Kenneth G. Todd, Division III - Criminal cases
Honorable Holly M. Harvey, Division IV - Domestic Relations (family), Small Claims
Honorable Mary Ellen Diekhoff, Division V - Criminal cases
Honorable Frances G. Hill, Division VI - Tort, Civil Plenary, Civil Collection and Mortgage Foreclosure cases and Juvenile CHINS, Juvenile Miscellaneous filed by the Office of Family and Children, and Juvenile Terminations
Honorable Stephen R. Galvin, Division VII - Juvenile Delinquencies, Juvenile Status, Juvenile Miscellaneous resulting from delinquent acts, Juvenile Paternity, Adoptions, Mental Health, Guardianship, Juvenile CHINS, Juvenile Miscellaneous filed by the Office of Family and Children, and Juvenile Terminations.
Honorable Valeri Haughton, Division VIII - Domestic Relations (family), Small Claims
Honorable Teresa D. Harper, Division IX - Criminal
Honorable Bret D. Raper, Commissioner - Juvenile Paternity
The latest news is that after 2018, Judge Harvey will be taking over retiring Judge Hill's docket and that Judge Haughton will be taking over Judge Kellam's docket. That means that of the three new judges, the best bet is that one will hear criminal cases and two will hear Domestic Relations and Small Claims.
Why are judicial races partisan?
Interestingly, not all judicial races in Indiana are partisan (in this context, partisan means that the candidate has to declare a political party to run for office). In Allen County (Fort Wayne) and Vanderburgh County (Evansville), some of the judicial elections are nonpartisan. In Lake County (East Chicago) and St. Joseph County (South Bend), the judges are appointed by the Governor. (See Ballotpedia for more details). Marion County (Indianapolis) has an even more complicated system for finding judges--one that has faced much scrutiny recently.
As to why judicial races in the rest of Indiana are partisan, there is no real answer except tradition and history. Most of Indiana's elected offices are partisan, from Coroner and Surveyor, to Mayor, Senator, and Governor.