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Crane Wants Court of Appeals Job
November 7, 2007 - With an 18-year legal career that has provided a variety of professional experiences, four-term Henry County Prosecutor Kit Crane is hoping to be able to add a new position to his resume next spring. Crane is one of 15 applicants vying to replace Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Sharpnack, who is retiring in May from his seat on the appellate court. The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission, a seven-member body chaired by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, will conduct its first round of interviews with Crane and the others Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Speaking to The Banner yesterday, Crane said that, with vacancies on the Court of Appeals arising infrequently, he viewed the chance to apply for this opening "as a once in a professional lifetime opportunity."
"I love my job as Henry County Prosecutor," Crane said. "But I have an opportunity … of being able to influence law in the state of Indiana from the Court of Appeals for up to 25 years."
The 50-year-old Crane was reelected to his fourth term as Henry County Prosecutor in November 2006. While time in that position accounts for the biggest part of his legal career - 14 years - he spent five-and-a-half years prior to that in private practice in New Castle and worked as a part-time public defender.
"I've had a full-time job since I was 16," Crane said. "I used to work at the McDonald's in New Castle to get through high school and help pay for my college education. I just think that the work ethic that I had to develop working full-time and going to college and law school full-time, my military experience, the number of jury trials that I've done - not only as a prosecutor, but also as a public defender - I think all of that (gives) me … a very balanced offering of experience for the Court of Appeals."
In addition to the law degree he received from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis in 1989, Crane has a bachelor's degree from Ball State University and a master's degree in Management and Supervision with a concentration in Public Administration from Central Michigan University. He also actively served in the U.S. Army from 1981 to March 1984 and has been part of the Army Reserves since January 1986.
"I joined the Army reserves just for a little extra money for law school," Crane said. "I've been in it since." Holding the rank of major, Crane was deployed to Iraq in January 2004 and served there until February 2005.
Crane and his wife, Stacey, a first grade teacher at Parker Elementary in New Castle, have two daughters, Cara and Emily, who are students at New Castle Chrysler High School. The family attends First United Methodist Church in New Castle.
Of the 15 applicants who have applied for the Court of Appeals vacancy, Crane is the only one currently serving as a prosecutor. Other candidates for the position are attorneys William Barrett (Greenwood), Richard Fox (Floyds Knobs), Stephen Johnson (executive director of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council), Jeffrey Kolb (Vincennes), Daniel Miller (Evansville), William Mullis (Mitchell), Leslie Shively (Evansville), and state lawmaker Sen. Brent Steele (Bedford), and six trial court judges: Dubois Superior Court Judge Elaine Brown; Morgan Superior Court 2 Judge Christopher Burnham; Morgan Superior Court 3 Judge Jane Spencer Craney; Boone Superior Court 2 Judge Rebecca McClure; Wayne Superior Court 1 Judge Thomas Snow; and Dearborn Superior Court Judge G. Michael Witte.
The Indiana Court of Appeals is divided into five districts that each have three judges, with judges for the First, Second and Third districts coming, respectively, from the southern, central and northern thirds of the state. The Fourth and Fifth districts have one judge from each of the first three districts, and the Fifth District seat Crane is seeking is the one reserved for someone residing in the First District.
As the state's intermediate appellate and second highest court, the Court of Appeals reviews decisions of trial courts and resolve legal questions raised by lower court proceedings. All five three-judge panels of the Court of Appeals have statewide jurisdiction and cases are randomly assigned to the panels. Additionally, judges rotate three times a year in a manner that assures each judge works with every other member of the court for at least four out of every 30 months.
According to a press release issued by the Judicial Nominating Commission, after next week's interviews, a group of semi-finalists will be called back for a second interview on December 12. Following those interviews, the commission will nominate three candidates for the governor's consideration, and he is expected to appoint someone to the vacancy within 60 days of that.
"I think it would be good for Henry County to have a representative on the Court of Appeals," Crane told The Banner. The last Court of Appeals judge to come from Henry County was former Henry Circuit Court Judge Wesley Ratliff, a longtime Knightstown resident who served on the Court of Appeals from 1980-1992, and then served as one of the court's part-time senior judge's until his death in 2006.
Sharpnack, the retiring judge from Columbus that Crane hopes to replace, was one of three justices who ruled unanimously for The Banner in late 2005 in the newspaper's case against the town of Knightstown and the town's insurer. Reversing a lower court ruling in favor of the town and insurer, Sharpnack and the other two judges ruled that The Banner was entitled to records showing the terms of the settlement that ended a former police dispatcher's civil rights lawsuit against the town, its police department and several former employees of the department.
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