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Legal community supports civic education efforts

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After winning the We The People simulated congressional hearing competition in December, one of the largest first-place teams in Indiana in at least seven years will head to Washington, D.C., for the national competition in late April.

While the legal community has historically supported various high school teams from Indiana over the years via donations through sections of the Indiana State Bar Association and by giving their time to coach students, for the first time, individual attorneys can donate funds through the Indiana Bar Foundation's Web site, www.inbf.org, until March 5.

We The People is a civic education program where students study six units: philosophical and historical underpinnings of the Constitution; writing of and debates about the Constitution; Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln through the civil rights movement; modern day functions of the branches of government and federalism; Bill of Rights and civil liberties; and current applications of the units and international relations.

Near the end of the semester-long class, students can participate in the competition of a series of mock congressional hearings. At the hearings, students answer questions from members of the community who volunteer to be judges.

Erin Braun, director of Civic Education and We The People state coordinator at the IBF, said the class of 28 students will need approximately $30,000 to cover their expenses, which include food, hotel, travel, and tours of various national landmarks.

The reason she and others are asking for funding is because the students do a better job if they're more concerned about competing than fundraising, she said.

Teams from Indiana have consistently placed in the top 10 in the country in recent years. In 2009, Indiana's team - represented by Hamilton Southeastern High School students - placed fifth.

Those who support the teams' efforts consider it among the best things they do.

ISBA President Roderick Morgan is involved with the program and said he looks forward to judging the program in Washington, D.C.

"I've judged the competitions at the elementary, middle school, and high school level," he said. "It's one of most refreshing things I've done in my career. It's a chance to see how young people get an understanding of how the Constitution works and how to apply it."

Morgan said the students take their work seriously.

"There's joy and heartache," he said. "If they miss an answer, they're crestfallen."

R. William Jonas, immediate past-president of the ISBA, continues to support the program.

Braun, along with Eric Steele, state coordinator for Project Citizen, and Kyle Burson, We The People program coordinator, said they couldn't thank Jonas enough for his support over the years, which is why he received the William G. Baker Civic Education Award Dec. 13.

That same night, Shortridge High School principal Brandon Cosby received the John J. Patrick Civic Education Award for his work at the Indianapolis Public School system's magnet school for law and public policy. Cosby heavily incorporated the We The People program into that school's curriculum.

Jonas said he was trying to get the program more of a presence in his congressional district because mock trials are already prevalent in South Bend. He's also working with Braun and Burson to convince South Bend schools to take on the program, and would like other cities in the northern part of the state to consider adding We The People to their schools.

Part of why he wants to see the program spread, he said, "is their research tells them that of the alumni of the program, 80 percent of them vote. This makes it clear these kids learn the importance of voting and they're informed voters when they do vote."

He added lawyers in other states spoke with him at the national competition last year about how the ISBA has been able to get attorneys involved and how they could emulate that in their jurisdictions.

The program is also tailored to students of all abilities, not just honors students, and all students who participate in the program have done well, he added.

"Whole classes are involved ... so it's not cherry-picked people who are all over achievers," he said. "They understand at the competitive level the importance of everyone participating. You see the looks in their eyes, and they draw each other into the conversation and discussion with judges. That's terrific stuff. ... It's how we operate successfully as a country if we can get people to do it."

As far as giving money to support the teams, Jonas said he realized that these are tough economic times and that world events such as the earthquake in Haiti have had an impact on how much people might be able to give.

"All I can tell you is having seen the national finals last year and having seen the Indiana team perform, I would tell you for myself it's an easy choice for me to make as opposed to giving to some other charities," he said.

He added the experience of going to Washington, D.C., might be the only chance for some of the students. Additionally, teams that make it to the top 10 get to compete in a hearing room in one of the congressional office buildings, something they wouldn't otherwise get to experience.

"Unfortunately there's no requirement to have civic education taught in schools," Morgan said, "but I would like We The People to be taught in every school in the state, or the country for that matter. There's a lack of education about what it means to be an American and how it affects our public lives. ... I wish we could get this into more schools."

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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