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Change at the top means new leadership at Supreme Court

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Chief Justice Brent Dickson led the Indiana Supreme Court for just two years, but attorneys who practice before the court said his decision to hand the reins to a colleague is in keeping with the leadership tone he set.

Dickson expects to step down from his position as chief justice sometime before Sept. 1, according to a statement from the court. He will remain on the court as an associate justice until July 2016 when he will turn 75, the mandatory retirement age.
 

dickson-brent.jpg Dickson

“He is one of the smartest men I know, and one of the most intentional men I know,” said Maggie Smith, an appellate practitioner at Frost Brown Todd LLC who clerked for Dickson from 1996 to 1998.

“When a new chief is selected this fall, he’s still there on the court to be a backup and to help the new chief get his footing,” Smith said. Likewise, Dickson has divided the court’s administrative duties and given new justices plenty of experience that’s positioned any of them to lead, she said.

“His goal in agreeing to be chief justice was to make sure the transition was smooth,” after Randall Shepard retired, closing the books on the longest tenure as chief in the state’s history, Smith added. “I can’t imagine a smoother transition.”

Dickson announced June 11 he will relinquish his leadership as chief justice, saying “The time is right for this transition.”

The Judicial Nominating Commission will select the next chief justice and has scheduled public interviews Aug. 6 with Justices Steven David, Mark Massa, Robert Rucker and Loretta Rush. The commission then will determine Dickson’s successor.

“It has been a great joy and a privilege to have helped continue the Court’s tradition of excellence – especially with four hard-working colleagues who are devoted to the law,” Dickson said in a statement. “I am looking forward to being able to spend most of my time in legal research, deciding cases and writing opinions.”

Dickson has led the court since May 2012, when he succeeded Shepard. “Knowing that my tenure as chief justice was limited, each associate justice has actively participated in much of the administrative responsibilities and decisions of the office of chief justice,” Dickson said.

“The court and state will be well served when one of my colleagues is selected as the next chief justice.”

Gov. Mike Pence saluted Dickson, saying he “has served our state well for the last two years as the head of our state’s highest court, and has brought his outstanding legal expertise and practical judgment to bear throughout his 28 years as a member of the court. I know him to be a man of great faith, and I applaud his long-standing commitment to public service in the legal system and look forward to his continued wisdom as he remains on the court.”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that Dickson continued the successes of the Shepard court and “presided over the Indiana Supreme Court with great dignity, wisdom and fairness, and all attorneys who appear before the Court know they must be prepared during oral argument for the Chief Justice’s thorough questions and penetrating insight.”

Jon Laramore, a partner and appellate lawyer at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, said that as chief justice, Dickson “maintained the atmosphere at oral arguments that was welcoming to counsel and encouraged a conversation between the lawyers and the justices about each case.”

Laramore said Dickson’s body of opinions on property taxes in the 1990s and numerous other areas were “path-breaking” in developing law around the Indiana Constitution.

“He has written the key cases on the qualified privileges clause, the property tax uniformity clause, double jeopardy and important opinions about special laws, religious freedom and, most recently, education,” he said. “Those opinions will live for many more decades.”

Indiana State Bar Association President Jim Dimos said he was surprised by Dickson’s announcement but pleased he will remain on the bench.

Dickson, Dimos said, “has been a pleasure to work with. He is collaborative in his efforts and was very interested in hearing the input of the practicing bar. I’m confident whoever his successor will be, that collaboration will continue.

“He was approachable and was interested in hearing what lawyers were thinking and he was very deliberate in his decision-making,” Dimos said.

Practicing before Dickson, Dimos won some and lost some. “At the end of the day, I always though Chief Justice Dickson gave due consideration to the arguments on both sides.”

As chair of the seven-member Judicial Nominating Commission, Dickson will have a say in who succeeds him on the court. The commission also includes three lawyers elected by attorneys and three lay members appointed by the governor. Currently, there are two members appointed by Pence and one completing the final year of a term who was appointed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Professor Joel Schumm said court-watchers will be interested to see if more than one justice expresses interest in the leadership position. He noted that during Dickson’s selection, his colleagues on the court were unanimous in backing him for chief.

“There hasn’t been for more than 25 years a contested race,” Schumm said. And because the commission is mostly Republican, justices appointed by Daniels – David, Massa and Rush – are the likeliest candidates.

“It’s likely the person selected will serve 10 or 15 years,” Schumm said. Dickson, he said, “has done a very good job in a time of transition for the court.”

Dickson was selected in 1986 as the 100th justice appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court. His former colleague on the high court, Frank Sullivan Jr., said Dickson’s modest and inclusive approach has been appreciated by the many judges, lawyers and citizens with whom he has had contact.

“I am pleased that Chief Justice Dickson will remain a member of the Supreme Court,” said Sullivan, now a professor at IU McKinney School of Law. “During his long tenure – indeed, the second longest tenure of any Indiana Supreme Court justice in history – he has authored some of the most important and far-reaching opinions of the court. The breadth and strength of the court’s decisions will benefit from his continued efforts.”

Among the major initiatives during his tenure as chief justice, Dickson continued efforts to expand the Odyssey case management system to all Indiana courts; revitalized the use of volunteer attorneys to provide civil legal aid to the needy; and initiated the reform of Indiana’s pretrial release system to enhance public safety, reduce taxpayer expense and provide greater fairness.

Under his watch, the court advanced proposed rules requiring e-filing in Indiana courts and requiring mandatory reporting of attorneys’ pro bono hours.

Smith, Dickson’s former clerk, said few attorneys realize the heavy volume of administrative work that falls to chief justices, estimating writing opinions is probably less than a quarter of the job. “Frankly, I’m surprised he has issued as many opinions as he has as chief justice,” she said.

She’s not surprised, though, that Dickson decided to let someone else lead the court before mandatory retirement.

“For him, I’m thrilled that he’s going to use the next two years to kind of finish what he started, which is the development of Indiana law,” Smith said. “He doesn’t do anything capriciously. He does what’s going to be best for the court as a whole.”•

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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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