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Remembering former Indiana Justice Dixon W. Prentice

August 13, 2014
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

In early 1971 I went to work for the Honorable Dixon W. Prentice, Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. Although I left a higher-paying job to make the move, it was one of the smartest and most gratifying things I ever did. Justice Prentice was a somewhat quiet man, stern in appearance, and a stickler for Court protocol and the propriety of public office. Over the next two years I would learn that he was a man of principle determined to serve the people of the State of Indiana to the best of his abilities. He was also a kind man and a friend and I mourn his passing in Tucson on July 20th.
 

prentice Prentice

I was the first law clerk he hired after being elected to his seat on the Court. That election was the last in which the justices would face an opponent on the ballot. The law was changed so that they would face a yes-no vote instead, every ten years. As his law clerk I was required to review incoming appeals, research the law, and prepare a proposed opinion. I did my job as thoroughly as I could and didn’t submit anything to the judge until I was satisfied I hadn’t overlooked anything. Given his demeanor and belief in detail and accuracy, I knew nothing short of my best would suffice.

I loved the job and really admired the Judge, who became a friend as well as my superior. I worked hard and he always showed his appreciation, like giving me tickets to ball games he didn’t plan to attend. Although I did extensive research on every case, many times he did additional on his own. He was a stickler for detail and accuracy and wouldn’t settle for anything unless he was sure. Many times he would stay late after everyone was gone and literally burn the “midnight oil.” He had to be absolutely sure that something was right before he signed off on it. He was a truly dedicated public official, as others in the office such as Bea Dickson, his secretary, and Rick Mouser, a law clerk he hired later, would readily attest. Both Bea, a former secretary to Governor Welsh, and Rick, who graduated first in his class, had great respect for Justice Prentice. He deserved every bit of it.

He felt that he and everyone else that worked in his office were servants of the people, and his conduct and office rules reflected it. He insisted that the office not be closed for any reason during normal working hours. He was a good man and a great Judge, who would be perfect as a model for what elected officials should do and how they should conduct themselves.

I had and have the greatest respect for Justice Dixon W. Prentice. After I left the court and was practicing law I represented him in a lawsuit. On another occasion he offered to appoint me as Circuit judge in a southern county where the bench was vacant. I declined but was flattered that he asked me. I saw him and toasted him at his retirement party and stayed in touch after he moved to Tucson. He lived a good full life but now he is gone. I am sad. He and all that he stands for will be sorely missed.•

Rest in peace Your Honor,
Your loyal law clerk, George (Cottrell)
 

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  • Kind words
    Thank you, George, for your kindness in writing about my father Dixon Prentice. He was, as you note, a gentleman who followed the highest ethical principles. We were blessed that he lived such a long full life. He continued to lead by his courageous and loving example untilnthecend of his life.
  • Thank You
    That's my grandpa you speak so highly of. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and post such kind words. I'm also an attorney -- in private practice (Estate & Elder Law) down here in Melbourne, FL. Cheers Mate!! :)

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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