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5 make first cut for Court of Appeals vacancy

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A consumer protection official, a public defender, two judges and a law professor are semifinalists for a position on the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission on May 16 selected Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, of Indianapolis; Patricia Caress McMath, of Indianapolis; Madison Circuit Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III, of Anderson; Joel M. Schumm, of Indianapolis; and Marion Superior Judge Robert R. Altice Jr., of Indianapolis. The five were chosen from a field of 14 applicants vying to fill the vacancy that will be created when appellate Judge Carr Darden retires in July.

Each of the semifinalists will be interviewed a second time June 4 or 5. The commission then will select three finalists whose names will be sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels, who will make the appointment.

The commission, chaired by Chief Justice Brent Dickson, asked candidates what they most admired about the Court of Appeals and what qualities they would bring, if selected.  
 

kuzma-bigaillawlis-mug.jpg Kuzma

Kuzma, who leads the Office of the Indiana Attorney General’s consumer protection division, said she appreciated the court’s efforts to reach out to Hoosiers through its website, plain language jury instructions, and “appeals on wheels,” in which appellate panels travel the state for oral arguments.

Kuzma stressed her organizational leadership and prior charitable work as co-founder of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis. At the consumer protection division, she oversees a staff of about 100 people, including 35 attorneys, who focus on fraud prevention, foreclosure prevention and other consumer issues. “It’s very rewarding but also a very diverse experience of helping people,” she said. “I am a high-energy person.”


McMath McMath

McMath is one of three former Court of Appeals law clerks who made the cut. She handles appeals for the Marion County Public Defender Agency.

She said she admired the court for making “a written appeal in every case, so Hoosiers know” why the case was decided as it was. “It’s a remarkable thing considering that kind of caseload.”

McMath said her familiarity with appeals was a strong suit. “I have vast experience with appellate law,” she said, citing seven years as a clerk for two judges and 15 years as a public defender working exclusively in the appeals court.


Pyle Pyle

Pyle, a Madison Circuit judge, also clerked at the Court of Appeals for the man he hopes to succeed – Darden. He said he was impressed by the court’s emphasis on civility and recalled when writing as a law clerk being impressed by the respectful tone of dissents.

“I’m committed to that process,” Pyle said.

He stressed his diversity of experience that includes being an Indiana state trooper, deputy prosecutor, defense attorney, running a private practice, and being appointed and elected to the bench.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see the law on almost every level,” he said.


altice-robert-mug Altice

Altice, a longtime Marion Superior judge, said he knows the judges on the appeals court through his years on the bench.

“Probably the biggest skill I bring is experience,” he said, including trying more than 270 criminal cases, including 40 murder cases; and bringing more than 100 cases as a prosecutor.

“I try to build consensus wherever I can,” Altice said. “It’s just the nature of my personality.”

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor Joel Schumm is among those who have experience as an appeals court clerk. He stressed his academic background and said he admired “the way the Court of Appeals guarantees an absolute right to one appeal.”


Joel Schumm mug Schumm

Schumm said that he would bring a fitting work ethic to a court that generates more than 2,000 opinions per year.

Of his attributes, he said, “the biggest one is writing and analytical ability. … Writing excellent opinions.”

Other applicants were: Marion Superior Judge Cynthia J. Ayers, of Indianapolis; Jeffrey D. Wehmueller, of Fishers; Carol Nemeth Joven, of Indianapolis; Bryce D. Owens, of Pendleton; Brenda A. Roper, of Indianapolis; Rebecca A. Trent, of West Lafayette; Howard Superior Judge William C. Menges Jr., of Kokomo; Chris M. Teagle, of Albany; and Kari Evans Bennett, of Noblesville.•

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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