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Commission sends 3 names as finalists for Tax Court opening

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Within two months, Indiana will have a new state tax judge for only the second time ever.

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission has recommended that that the governor consider Bloomington attorney Joby Jerrells, Hendricks Superior 3 Judge Karen Love, and attorney Martha Wentworth of Greenwood as finalists for the state’s only specialized appellate court.

Gov. Mitch Daniels will make the final decision on who replaces Judge Thomas G. Fisher. Judge Fisher retires from the tax bench on Jan. 1, 2011, culminating a legal career that’s included 24 years of service as the state’s first and only tax court judge.

Meeting with seven semi-finalists on Oct. 27, the commission interviewed four women and three men for 25 minutes each. These second interviews followed an initial round on Sept. 27 with 14 applicants and delved more in-depth into each person’s background and what he or she thinks about the tax court. Aside from the finalists, the others interviewed were: George Angelone, Dan Carwile, Hon. Carol Comer, and Melony Sacopulos.

The commission had submitted a question to each semi-finalist, asking them to reflect on how the tax judge might contribute to the development of the state’s jurisprudence and to the improvement of the overall judiciary.

“All the candidates have experience that gives us the core competency and intellect, which is good news for this commission and the state,” said banking attorney Dan Carwile from Evansville, one of the semi-finalists.

One of the main themes discussed during the second round of interviews focused on public access and transparency and making sure the tax court operates efficiently so that its cases move as quickly as possible and the public understands what is happening.

Administrative law judge and semi-finalist Carol Comer told the commission that courts in general are considered “scary” places for non-attorneys and that the entire judiciary needs to do a better job with transparency and access.

“The point is, the Tax Court needs to be just as accessible for the layperson as someone represented by counsel,” she said. “Most claims don’t make it to court because that’s where things become ‘very legal and complicated.’”

She said the court’s message must reach the broadest possible audience, and that using Twitter and Facebook could even be something to consider for the future in order to “be more conscious on how ideas are communicated concisely, clearly, quickly, and to the point.”

“Modern communication is changing,” she said. “Imagine a day when the Tax Court has a Facebook page where people can befriend and see opinions as they’re issued, or get updates from the court as they happen. That’s not different from what’s on the court website now, but it’s just a different form for the more modern generation.”

Chief Justice Shepard complimented everyone who’d applied for the post and said it was a tough decision for the commission to narrow down the initial or semi-finalist list, but that members were confident these were great choices for the governor to consider.

Jerrells

A second-career attorney who’d worked in computer operations before enrolling in and graduating from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis in 2003, Jerrells now works as both a deputy prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office and is also a self-employed attorney out of his home in Bloomington. He talked about his experience in all types of law, from tax and civil issues to criminal prosecutions and corporate clients. He ran for Monroe County judge in 2008 but was defeated in the general election.

If chosen for this appellate seat, Jerrells said he would be interested in trying to “enhance, hone, and improve” the jurisprudence that has been created during the past quarter century. He said an electronic docket would be beneficial for that court’s efficiency and that he’d want to make sure pro se litigants understood the process.

Responding to a question about the structure of how appeals come from the Department of Revenue, Jerrells told members that the issue is “brewing” and that the discretion given by the Tax Court to those state agency decisions might need to be examined, possibly by a rule or statute. He also said timeliness should be examined and efficiency should be improved if necessary, particularly since there’s no “lazy judge” rule as exists for state trial courts.

“Since there’s going to be a new tax judge, there’s an opportunity where we can determine what needs to change,” he said.

Love

The only trial judge interviewed, Judge Love said the tax judge’s responsibility is to provide “timely and affordable justice for all” and that her experience on the bench since 1995 has prepared her for this role on the administrative, legal and judiciary sides. She hopes the tax court judge can help Indiana become a leader in tax law just like it is known nationally for jury reform.

In addition to her judicial experience, Love has also practiced law privately, worked as a certified accountant, and she helped draft the state’s Child Support Guidelines. Nominating commission members also asked about her experience on a bank board and the decisions she’d had to make in that role.

Though noting that appellate courts aren’t doing their jobs to effectuate change, Judge Love noted that she’d conduct a review of pending cases and actively communicate with outgoing Judge Fisher as well as the practicing bar to get familiar with the court.

One commission member noted that he was impressed with her writing, and Judge Love noted that she’s learned from the lawyers and other jurists throughout the state. “I’m a product of the legal profession, the judiciary in Indiana,” she said. “I want you to see what trial judges are like, and I want to make them proud.”

Wentworth

Wentworth echoed many of the aspects that her fellow semi-finalists pointed out, and she noted that she’d spent time reading State of the Judiciary speeches to get an idea of how the Hoosier judiciary has changed through the years. Today, Wentworth serves as tax director for the multi-state group Deloitte Tax LLP. Her previous professional roles have included clerking for the Tax Court in the early 1990s and working closely with the state Department of Revenue. Her experience shows that she’s advocated for continuing education, professionalism and collegiality, she said.

Saying that judges must be careful in communicating with lawmakers, Wentworth said it would be appropriate to help the legislature understand what possible unintended consequences might result from state statute changes. She said the state faces so many intriguing and challenging legal questions on tax law, such as what is considered distortion on taxes, the amount of discretion the DOR has in allowing separate corporate entities to file separate or joint returns, and how the state agency can discretionarily change federal taxable income.

“My first job out of law school was working for a judge. I never thought I’d have this opportunity, but when it came right down to it, I couldn’t just not try. I have such a passion for tax law and for Indiana’s tax law to be fair and good and have other states look to us. That, to me, is so important; that pride is worth so much more than what I’m doing now.”

The governor’s choice

Daniels’ general counsel David Pippen, who sat through all of the interviews, said the process hasn’t been formalized and he wasn’t sure how the three finalists might be interviewed or whether a hypothetical case might be presented to the trio as was done with the most recent Indiana Supreme Court vacancy.

By law, Daniels has 60 days to make a decision from the time a final report is sent from the nominating commission. The commission sent it to the governor Nov. 5. Though he has until early January to make a decision, the governor is expected to announce the new jurist by the end of this year. If that doesn’t happen, the chief justice can pick from the three finalists’ names.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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