This was one retirement ceremony we were not looking forward to attending, fearing that the gentleman stepping away from the bench would slip away from public life and live quietly with his family, indulging his interests outside the law, while working as a mediator at Van Winkle Baten Rimstidt and senior judging for the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Family time and sports also may be on the agenda, but we were thrilled when former justice Ted Boehm said during his retirement ceremony at the end of last month: “I do not intend to vanish from the public arena” and then proceeded to explain just exactly what he wanted to give a little of his newfound time and attention to.
“Too often preservation of individual privilege or defense of party power is elevated over the greater public good in the actions and sometimes even in the stated positions of officials or office seekers. We can no longer afford tolerating remnants of the spoils system as the necessary cost of our government,” he said.
We couldn’t agree more.
He listed some of the problems we face in our current economic state: public safety, education, infrastructure, public transportation, libraries and parks. “Yet we are unable to implement programs that can provide better service at less cost. Many others have noted the often contentious mode of debate on issues of critical importance to our city, state and nation. This is more than distasteful. It is costing us money and degrading the quality of services we can and should expect from government at all levels and in all three branches.”
That was music to our ears.
Then he mentioned the analysis of county and township government, which sometimes seems to have been etched into granite instead of mere concrete, and the findings of the 2007 Kernan-Shepard report. He pointed out the deplorable inefficiencies of our local governments, and then got to the whopper as far as we were concerned.
“A second example comes from the judicial branch, where in some parts of the state we have systems of judicial selection that work well, but in Marion County, for example, we have a scheme that purports to place the selection in the hands of the voters, but in practical effect leaves it under the control of a few party officials. There are several pernicious results, not the least of which is the judges become a vehicle for raising funds for political parties. Despite widespread derision, even ridicule of this system, few in government have the will to challenge it.”
We suspect we just celebrated the retirement of someone who has the will to not only challenge it, but to change it. He may need a hammer or a wrench to do it, but if anyone can bring about this kind of change, we’re certain he can.
Indianapolis is a success as an amateur sports hub owing at least in part to Boehm’s efforts as the first president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Sports Corporation. His list of accomplishments is extensive and impressive; he is not someone to trifle with.
We suspect that when he decides it’s time to start dismantling the system by which we “elect” judges in Marion County, that his honor will not need a hammer or a wrench, but should he decide he needs such implements, we’d be happy to hand them to him.•