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Blomquist: All I Really Need to Know About Being a Lawyer, I Learned in Kindergarten

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blomquist-kerryOkay, that is a bit sweeping, I admit, and before I rain on our academic colleagues’ summer parade and disenfranchise an entire generation of young lawyers out there who are trudging along with massive law school loan debt, let me revise: a lot of what I need to know about being a lawyer, I learned in kindergarten. For example (and please work with the metaphors like I know you can): play nice in the sandbox, do unto others, share the good stuff, help people when they need it, be respectful of your elders and don’t promise marriage to anyone just because they buy you an orange creamsicle.1 And of course, the biggie: rules are important. Rules let us know what is expected of us. Rules keep us in order.

Much of our profession is based on the concept of rules, specifically the Rule of Law, and I need not remind this audience that while the “Rule of Law” constrains all individuals’ behavior for the greater good of society, it arguably constrains the behavior of the “rule makers” even more. No branch of government is above the law, and no public official may act arbitrarily or unilaterally outside the law. No written law is enforceable if it is determined to be inconsistent with the human principles of fairness and justice. I would love to put links to the Code of Hammurabi and the Magna Carta in right here, but space precludes me from doing so (you’re welcome). In the end, Aristotle said it best a couple of thousand years ago when he said “The rule of law is better than that of any individual.”

How cool is that?

Of course the big elephant in the room right now is the fact that Marion County seems to be taking a bit of a reputation hit after a series of arrests involving several key public officials. This is decidedly not cool for many reasons, and there are many places to go for facts, opinions and rantings on this issue. My choice is to be guardedly optimistic that while we as a profession continue to watch and process this chain of events, we will remember the following:

1. That as we live and breathe and opine and blog, we remember the principle of the presumption of innocence, a maxim that, while adopted by our civil society, dates back to Roman times. It is worth repeating: “the burden of proof lies with the one who declares, not the one who denies.”

2. That our local government is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of dedicated public servants including but not limited to civil service workers, prosecutors, public defenders and judges who work every single day doing the hard work, and doing it well. Just a few days ago I participated in an IndyBar CLE about Marion County’s implementation of the JTAC Odyssey Case Management System. It served as a vivid reminder of the many state and local public servants who have put in extraordinary hours and energy to make this system work here in central Indiana and indeed all over the state. Those are the headlines you don’t see; those are the sound bites you don’t hear.

3. That we, as attorneys and judges, are the guardians of this system of justice, and as such, we have a great deal of control over how it is perceived. If we need a reminder of our obligation to our profession, our clients and our civil society, we need only remember the lesson from kindergarten: follow the rules, and this one in particular. The following rule not only bears repeating, it needs to sit in a frame on each of our desks. It should be memorized early on and not just recited once in our professional lives.

Rule 22. The Oath of Attorneys:

“I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead the court or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law; I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client at every peril to myself; I will abstain from offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged; I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.” 2

__________

1 I’m not sure that one “took.”

2 Apologies to this audience for not editing this, but I wouldn’t dare.

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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