On Monday, October, 21st, the Indiana Court of Appeals announced the appointment of a new chief judge, Judge Nancy H. Vaidik to succeed Judge Margret G. Robb, who will start her term on January 1, 2014.1 Judge Vaidik is only the second woman, after Judge Robb, to hold the coveted title of Chief Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals. The Chief Judge’s roll is to represent the Court at public and private events and ceremonies, and also serves as the Court’s liaison to the legislative and executive branches (the Governor of Indiana and the Senators and Representatives for the State of Indiana, elected by the public). While the Chief Judge may serve as a liaison, the Court of Appeals is a nonpolitical and nonpartisan Court, which neither legislates nor executes.2
By law, the Court of Appeals elects a new Chief Judge every 3 years. The Court of Appeals is comprised of a 15 Judge panel of judges, and the Chief Judge is selected from one of the sitting judges. When a vacancy occurs on the 15-member court, due to retirement, resignation, or otherwise, a new judge is appointed by the Governor of Indiana, usually on the recommendation of a judicial selection committee that recommends 3 names. Once a judge is appointed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, they must be elected by the citizens of Indiana to remain on the court through a retention election held every 10 years.
The Court of Appeals hears appeals of cases arising from Indiana trial courts and Indiana administrative agencies.3 Whether a case comes from the civil docket, the criminal docket, or an administrative hearing, every litigant has a right to one appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals’ role is to review matters of law and answer legal questions in cases that are brought to them on appeal.
Generally, when an appeal is filed, and all briefing is completed, a 3 judge panel is randomly selected from the 15 member judges of the Court of Appeals. That panel is responsible to review the briefs and law, and issue an opinion.
All opinions from the court of appeals are publicly available on the Court’s website. Opinions are issued either “for publication” or “not for publication.” The opinions issued as “for publication” are generally cases that answer a question of law that is unclear or creates a new law (also called caselaw or common law, meaning that it is not a statute). Opinions that are “for publication” create precedent, and all other cases similar in facts must follow the holding set forth by the Court of Appeals. Alternatively, opinions that are “not for publication” only apply to that particular case, and are not binding precedent on other similarly situated litigants.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the role of the Indiana Court of Appeals, and the inner workings of the second highest court in Indiana. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Lori Schmeltzer.