Chinn: Why I Want to Be Like Judge Darden When I Grow Up (and You Should Too) or … Why Julie Armstrong Loves Carr Darden

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iba-chinn-scottI was pleased to have been invited on July 25 to provide a few remarks on behalf of the Indianapolis Bar Association on the occasion of the retirement of Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr L. Darden at a ceremony held in the Indiana Supreme Court. There were about a dozen speakers that offered remarks about Judge Darden, his career and his family. Judge Darden has served on the Indiana Court of Appeals for 18 years and served as a Marion Superior Judge and Marion Municipal Court Judge before his appointment to the appellate bench.

For those of you who weren’t there, I wish you could have been. Reflecting on the career and works of Judge Darden through the observations of the many speakers and Judge Darden’s own remarks provided one of those opportunities that one gets from time to time to chant a mantra to oneself without hyperbole or irony to the effect: “lawyers make a difference, good people can win in the end, the world isn’t going explode soon.”

Suffice it to say, Judge Darden was presented with many accolades and gifts. The IndyBar, as has become its custom for these occasions, will prepare a written biographical history of the judge’s career to be posted both at and on Wikipedia. Here are the remarks I delivered at the ceremony.

Chief Judge Robb, may it please the Court,

On behalf of the more than 5,000 members of the Indianapolis Bar Association, I want to extend my congratulations to you, Judge Darden, on your stellar judicial career and for your public service.

Judge Darden was appointed to the court of appeals the year I became a lawyer, so I never had the chance to appear in front of him as a trial judge. I did however argue appellate cases to him, and what I can testify to about that experience is his uncanny ability to ask probing questions accompanied with a quizzical expression forcing the advocate to put up or shut up – but doing so without conveying any hint of meanness or superiority. In that way, his judicial temperament has seemed completely in the service of his role to get it right and do justice.

But Carr Darden has been more than more than just a good judge. He has been a leader in the profession. In 2004, Judge Darden received the Paul H. Buchanan Award of Excellence – the highest award the Indianapolis Bar Association and Indianapolis Bar Foundation can give a lawyer for service to the bar and profession. For those achievements, he is simply the standard by which others are measured.

My mention of these successes is necessarily summary. And other speakers will more ably extol Judge Darden’s many virtues. So, I want to focus my comments with a brief anecdote. The Indianapolis Bar Association’s signature event each year is its Bench-Bar conference held in June. This year, the 19th annual conference was held in French Lick. On the day the conference began, IndyBar Executive Director Julie Armstrong and I were staffing the registration desk when Judge Darden approached us. He strolled up to us wearing blue jeans and wearing his trademark grin and friendly disposition. Characteristically, he was checking in with us earlier than most others – taking the time to know the lay of the land at the conference, as he would be one of our panelists on the criminal law track during the second day.

As Judge Darden later walked away from the desk, I vividly recall Julie saying spontaneously, “I love Carr Darden.” Now Julie has been a bar executive for more than 20 years and is recognized by her peers to be one of the leading executives in the country. So, I take her exclamation not as indicative of a school girl crush – although you might not want to dismiss that possibility, Your Honor. Rather, I think what Julie was trying to sum up in those words was what bar leaders know about Judge Darden:

that he embodies the best spirit of advancing the relationship between bench and bar;

that he is equally comfortable in blue jeans compared to his judicial robe, which makes him approachable and instructive to senior lawyers and young lawyers alike; and

that in his personal interactions, he gives you the sense that he wants the best from you and also the best for you.

For all those reasons, I am able to say on behalf of the Indianapolis Bar Association, “we love Carr Darden.” Congratulations judge.•


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.