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Chinn: Law and Politics

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iba-chinn-scottAs it always is in the winter and early spring, the workings of the Indiana General Assembly is big news. So it has been this year. As this column is being issued, the time clock has run on the 2012 legislative session, which under the Indiana Constitution must end by March 14 in non-budget years (“short sessions”). The IndyBar has taken an increasingly active role in legislation over the past few years, as the Board of Directors has deemed that involvement of critical importance to the profession.

Once again this year, we established a legislative committee. IndyBar Vice President and Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch served as its chair and has done an outstanding job of keeping tabs on this year’s legislation. Every legislative session is different, but all require vigilance as there are so many bills and amendments that wind their way through the process. The committee’s priority is usually, and was this year, to play “defense” – that is, to ensure that no bills that might impair some interest of the bar or profession pass without our input. This session seemed to have fewer bills than we typically monitor as having a potential impact about which we would be concerned. We initially reviewed a lot of bills and monitored legislation involving family law, court fees for pro bono services, and litigation-related matters. As of this writing, there are no bills that we have identified as causing particular concerns.

Judge Welch was assisted ably by a seasoned team that included Vice Chair Mindy Westrick, Emily Heimann, John Render, and Jamie Cairns. As has been tradition, President Elect Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, First Vice President Jeff Abrams and I served on the committee by virtue of our officer positions. I’d like to thank the committee for its good work.

The committee also planned and executed the Sixth Annual Lawyer-Legislator Luncheon held on March 5 at the Conrad. We had a great turnout from the bar and from legislators – 23 lawmakers were in attendance and we had an overflow crowd. (Judge Welch knows how to throw a party!) The main goal of these annual luncheons is to ask legislators who are lawyers to interact with IndyBar members to discuss issues of important to the profession. But we’ve also been successful in attracting other legislators to come to the luncheon as well, which is a great boon to our efforts to have the IndyBar be a potential resource for any member of the General Assembly.

On March 5, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long gave overviews of the session and then each legislator spoke in turn about his or her district, background and legislation. By the end of the luncheon, we had really covered the waterfront of legislative session highlights as well as bills and trends that lawyers might be interested in. (The lawyer-legislators agreed that we need more lawyers in the General Assembly – there are currently 27, while the non-lawyers weren’t so sure about that.) And we presented mementoes to honor retiring legislators Representative Ralph Foley and Senator Richard Bray, the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, respectively. These long-serving legislators have had critical roles in framing laws that affect the courts, criminal law, and the profession for decades and they will be missed.

We intend to continue being active at the General Assembly in future years for three main reasons. First, it has become an essential service to protect the interests of the bar and profession. Second, in the event the IndyBar wants to advance legislative ideas of its own in the future, we must have standing and relationships with legislators to be able to communicate our interests effectively. Finally, lawyers are a civic-minded lot, and it seems right to have some involvement in the passage of laws that we are on the front lines of interpreting.

Enjoy spring break.

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  1. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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