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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 indybar.org 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. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

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