Trials & Litigation

Report: Judge bans law firm he blames for not getting court appointment

An Indiana judge has reportedly banned from his courtroom a prominent law firm he blames for not getting a coveted juvenile court appointment.

Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli is transferring all cases of Thiros & Stracci to other courts, unidentified court officials say, because a lawyer in the firm was involved in getting legislation enacted that helped prevent his being put at the helm of the Lake Juvenile Court, the Northwest Indiana Timesreports.

Mary Beth Bonaventura, the popular former longtime chief of the juvenile court, retired after decades on the bench to become the director of the state’s department of child services.

Schiralli was to succeed her in March, the NWI Times reported in February.

However, that news was followed by startling developments: Magistrates sued to prevent Schiralli from beginning work at the juvenile court, a significantly larger judicial operation than he had been overseeing, and the state supreme court stayed his appointment pending the resolution of the case, which sought to obtain a chance for magistrates to vie for the court’s top job.

At issue was a dispute about whether Bonaventura’s replacement should be simply a transfer from the county’s sitting judges, on the basis of seniority, or chosen by a merit selection panel which would identify candidates for appointment by the governor, according to Indiana Lawyer, the NWI Times and the Post-Tribune (reg. req.).

In May, the state’s top court upheld a county merit selection statute and said it prevented the transfer of Schiralli to the juvenile court post, another Indiana Lawyer article reported. While Schiralli could apply for the job, it was not automatically his by right of seniority, the supreme court ruled in a May 17 opinion (PDF).

Attorney James Thiros of Thiros & Stracci confirmed that Schiralli is transferring all cases handled to other courts, but declined to discuss the matter further when contacted by the newspaper.

The judge did not respond to the paper’s requests for comment.

See also:

Post-Tribune (reg. req.): “Judge needs more time before leaving Lake County juvie seat”

Indianapolis Star (sub. req.): “Choice of Mary Beth Bonaventura as DCS chief is praised”

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