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Commission wraps up interviews, begins deliberations

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The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commissions has finished interviewing the semifinalists who want to replace Frank Sullivan Jr. on the Supreme Court. The commission went into executive session around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Below are summaries of the four interviews that took place Wednesday afternoon. All applicants were asked about what qualities a justice should possess.

Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis said the factors were most important in selecting a justice at this time: proven civility and collegiality, and breadth of experience.

“I think this is established by work on leadership committees,” Willis said of her experience. Willis said her legal experience, administrative experience and familiarity with technology would serve the court well. “I think having that background and how they will work together will be a complement.”

Willis said her private practice and experience on bench were of equal importance. “In any decision you're going to draw on that,” she said of her experiences.

Asked about whether she would interpret constitutional issues with a strict reading or holding the documents as living document, Willis would hold to the original writings, but said, “We are privileged to live in a democracy that has constitutions that are able to adapt as we go forward.”

Willis said diversity was important on the Supreme Court, but that could include life experience, personal background and legal experience. “I think different backgrounds will make discussions at the Supreme Court table more robust.”

In Henry County, Willis said the court system had embrace technology through the Odyssey system and other advances. “Technology is the one issue we're going to chase,” she said. “We may be small, but we're mighty.”

Technology is also the issue that she commented on when asked what could best improve the court.

John Young, partner with Young & Young Attorneys in Indianapolis, said the panel should most importantly look for diversity, but not just in terms of race or gender. He said it was important that someone have experience in a diverse array of legal practice.

“I think it's also important that somebody have a great deal of worldly experience,” he said, as well as someone who has leadership abilities. “Somebody who believes that talking to the people is just as important as somebody who talks to the powers that be.”

Dickson asked about whether interpretation of constitutional issues should be done strictly or through an evolving standard. “I would be inclined to try to determine what the founders and the drafters and the ratifiers of the Constitution meant,” Young said, giving deference to the meaning of terms at the time the document was adopted.

Young was asked about whether he's kept up with developments in criminal law after more than two decades away from that practice. He said he does through the traditional avenues of legal publications, advance sheets and websites.

Young said the Supreme Court could be improved by making sure Odyssey was available in all counties throughout the state, and that funding was the key. Where the legislature hasn't provided adequate money, he said, “It's a matter of carving out money from filing fees.”

Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation said experience was the major factor that must be considered for a Supreme Court justice. A judge who's managed cases and applied the law will have a deeper understanding of cases as a justice, he said. “The books do not tell you everything.”

“The other item I think you have to have is the ability to work with other people,” Nation said. That includes the ability to see where a judge's opinion is and how it fits in and can supplement the views of the other justices.

Dickson raised the issue of Nation's age. At 62, Nation is the oldest seminfinalist. “My devotion to duty and my devotion to people has never changed,” he said. He noted that the average tenure of Indiana justices has been nine years and he has 13 left to serve.

Asked whether he believed the law or the end result of a decision was most important, Nation said it was difficult for him to make a line distinction between the two, but he said it was important the there was consistency in the way the law was applied.

Nation also said he would interpret matters of constitutionality “as our original founders have given that document.” He said that's the contract on which citizen and lawmakers rely, and “If people want to change it, they have the right to amend it.”

Asked whether civil or criminal cases presented the greatest intellectual challenge, Nation didn't hesitate: civil. “In contracts case and in tort litigation, it's always been intriguing for me,” he said, citing it as a reason why he ran for the bench.

Nation also said the court could improve its communication with the public to make sure people understand what's going on in the court.

Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush said humility was an important factory that could lead to judicial restraint. Character also is important. Commission member William Winingham noted that Rush was the lone semifinalist who mentioned humility as an important attribute.

Rush also said a broad and deep basis of professional and life experience was important, as was collegiality and consensus building. She recalled her grandmother’s advice that “ ... a little sugar goes a long way,” and that collegiality “helps us to build on the unbelievable foundation we have in the Supreme Court.”

The experience as a juvenile court judge has been challenging, Rush said, noting that those cases call on multiple disciplines.

Empathy is important in demeanor but not in decisions. “I want everyone to walk out of the courtroom feeling they were heard,” Rush said.

Rush said she would soon be working with a legislative study committee on the Department of Child Services and that it was important to be involved with such efforts. “All that work flows down to the work we do with parents and children,” she said.

Rush also noted, “I always like the Supreme Court decisions where they send a little red flag out to the General Assembly” about an area where legislative clarification might be needed. “I think working with that branch yields so many results.”

Asked about areas where the Supreme Court could improve, Rush said finding equitable and stable funding for the local trial courts was paramount. “We talk like we've never talked before” about funding issues, Rush noted, adding that courts in Kentucky are closing one day per week to save money. She said local trial court funding was an issue of access to justice.

 

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  1. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

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  3. 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.

  4. 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)

  5. "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.

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