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Leadership in Law 2013: Josh S. Tatum

Associate, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, Indianapolis Vanderbilt University Law School

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josh-tatum02-15col.jpg (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Since he was 12 years old, Josh S. Tatum has known he wanted to be an attorney because the lawyers he knew were some of the finest people he encountered. His sense of ethical commitment is highlighted by his graduating from school with a Juris Doctor and a Master’s in Divinity. Josh practices in appeals, participating in more than 35 cases before state and federal appellate courts in just two years of practice. He is especially proud of the amicus brief he authored in the Indiana school voucher case that the Indiana Supreme Court ruled on in March 2013. Josh is bright, able and enthusiastic and is considered by his mentor George Plews as someone who will have a longstanding and significant impact on the legal community.

If you could take a sabbatical from the law for a year to work your fantasy job, what job would you choose?
President of Wabash College. Wabash is an institution that changed my life starting with my enrollment and continuing today. The faculty, fellow alumni, friends and family have been a close community that challenged me to shape my identity more than any other. It’s my fantasy job because it would be a thrill to help lead that community in striving toward its mission.

If you could go back in time, “when” would you go to and what would you do?
I would meet my first ancestors who immigrated to the United States and learn about what motivated them to make such a dramatic change in their lives.

In life or law, what bugs you?
Bad writing.

If you could meet and spend a day with one lawyer from history, who would it be and why?
Abraham Lincoln. His writing and rhetoric are the most concise and powerful I have come across from any lawyer. I’d love to talk to him about how he developed closing arguments, brought cases to resolution, and drafted his speeches. His great accomplishments as president too often overshadow his great skill as an attorney.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to slow down time.

What’s the most important thing your mentor has taught you?
Kindness demonstrates strength rather than weakness.

What do you find scary?
Student loans.

What class in law school did you find the most difficult?
Contracts.

What civic cause is the most important to you?
Indiana YMCA Youth and Government. It’s a civic-education program that brings high-school students from across the state to participate in a model government at the Indiana Statehouse for a weekend. Students play the roles of legislators, the governor, secretary of state, Supreme Court justices, media correspondents and others. My wife and I are alumni of the program and both want young Hoosiers to internalize the Y’s values and Youth and Government’s motto, “Democracy must be learned by each generation.”

If you could pick a theme song to describe your life, what would it be?
“Back Home Again in Indiana.”

Would a world without 24/7 technology be a good or bad thing?
I’m agnostic on this. Electronics can be used for good or bad. Technology has always posed problems. Advances in metallurgy made for better plows and for better weapons. The printing press similarly had two sides. “Technology” is just another aspect of life we have to deal with.

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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