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Gender Could Factor Into Indiana Supreme Court Nomination

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    The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission is interviewing the candidates for the final time Thursday.

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    The Indiana Supreme Court currently has no female justices. Only one woman has ever served on the court.

The final round of interviews begins Thursday for Indiana Supreme Court applicants to replace outgoing Chief Justice Randall Shepard. Three of the finalists are women. If a female is nominated, she would be the only woman on the Court and only the second woman to serve in Indiana’s history.

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission will narrow down the applicants to three. Governor Mitch Daniels will then pick the next justice from those candidates.

According to statistics from the National Center for State Courts, Indiana is one of only three states that does not have a woman on its Supreme Court. One of the Center’s analysts Bill Raftery says it would make sense if more female candidates are being considered for supreme court posts.

“The trend is toward an increase in women in state supreme courts or courts of last resort in general,” he says. “The reason for this multifold, first of all you have a larger pool of women who are attorneys.”

The other factors, he says involve the efforts from state governments and from female advocates to get more female justices on higher courts.  IU Maurer School of Law professor Charles Geyh says he does not think gender will determine who gets nominated, but he says there are plenty of qualified women in the state.

“It’s odd seeming that you have no women on the Supreme Court, and I think the court could fairly take some criticism for that,” he says. “I think all political actors are mindful of that.”

Geyh says if Daniels picks a woman, it could add to the court’s legitimacy.

“It is something that’s probably less likely to matter to other judiciaries than it is to the Indiana judiciary,” he says. “It’s important that the Indiana judiciary reflects the population that it serves and that includes a female population.”

Myra Selby was Indiana’s first female and the first African American Supreme Court Justice. She served from 1995 to 1999 and the state has not had another female on the court since.

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