The person chosen as a superior court judge in Johnson County will have gone through an intense vetting process and answered questions about his or her community service, role in any controversial public issues and who might not want them to be a judge.

The candidates must disclose information about their health and should be prepared for the state’s legal team to contact whomever they want, including other judges or attorneys or residents, to ask questions about whether they are qualified and what kind of judge he or she would be.

Ultimately, Gov. Eric Holcomb will select a candidate to replace Judge Cynthia Emkes, who is retiring at the end of April after 30 years in Johnson Superior Court 2.

Each candidate for the Johnson County position will have an in-person interview with Joe Heerens, general counsel for Holcomb, and Heeren’s office will conduct a background check, including talking to judges, attorneys and other residents to learn about the personality of each candidate, his or her level of qualifications and what kind of judge he or she would be, Heerens said.

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The application also includes several pointed questions, such as asking candidates to disclose any details from their personal or professional life, such as alcohol or drug abuse, financial matters, sexual conduct or accusations of illegal or unethical conduct, that could cause embarrassment to the candidate or the governor and whether the candidate has ever been disciplined or cautioned, either formally or informally, by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications or the Indiana Supreme Court.

Each candidate has to agree to release federal, state and local tax records, criminal and driving histories, employment and medical records and credit reports.

The new judge will oversee felony criminal cases, approve or hand down sentences and oversee certain legal programs while finishing Emkes’ term through the end of 2020. Her departure will be the first of two voids created by the retirement of longtime judges.

Johnson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Loyd said he does not plan to run for re-election when his term expires at the end of 2018. He has served as a magistrate, appointed judge or elected judge since 1990. Voters will select his replacement.

The governor and his team are in the process of replacing at least four judges across the state, including Emkes’ position and an opening in Morgan County, where local attorney Jeff Eggers has been filling in as judge full-time since Oct. 31 until a replacement is selected.

The state officials are looking for someone who is not only a skilled and capable lawyer but also has the best background and level of experience, Heerens said. People who live or work in the community will be asked about each candidate’s demeanor, how they interact with others professionally and in a respectful manner and what their peers think of them, Heerens said.

Heerens will give Holcomb a thorough background assessment of each candidate and talk with the governor about which applicants would be the best appointment, he said. They want a judge who will do a good job in a professional and respectful way that the community can respect, he said.

Candidates have until April 24 to apply for the job, and Emkes’ final day is April 28. During the weeks before the new judge is appointed, a temporary judge, named by the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, will handle cases in Superior Court 2. The new judge likely will be named in May.

At a glance

Selecting a new judge

Who picks: Gov. Eric Holcomb

Deadline to apply: April 24

Process: State legal team will conduct an initial interview and background check.

Timeline: A new judge could be named in May.

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2774.