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End of a family legacy

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As the Hoosier judiciary has evolved through the decades, the Indiana Judges Association has been a vocal advocate in helping to shape and welcome those changes.

The organization has been around since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, evolving from what some describe as more of a social club to an educational and legislative lobbying arm of Indiana’s judiciary.

But for the first time since the mid 1950s, the Indiana Judges Association won’t have anyone in the Baker family sitting on the board of managers and being as intimately involved in the group’s activities as they have been for two-thirds of the group’s existence.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John G. Baker on Jan. 1 relinquished the IJA directorship that’s been in his family for more than five decades. It began with his uncle, Dearborn-Ohio Circuit Judge Lester Baker, and Judge John Baker became involved in the 1970s.
 

coa Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John G. Baker holds a picture from an Indiana Judges Association meeting in 1984, where his uncle – Dearborn-Ohio Circuit Judge Lester Baker, pictured second from the right – was recognized as a past president. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Their involvement and leadership has coincided with some of the most significant reforms in how Indiana courts operate, and that has shaped the organization that is now facing another pivotal period as it pushes for new judiciary reforms that would transform Indiana’s court system again.

“Truly, it’s astounding and I’d be surprised if any two judges in the same family have this type of track record anywhere in the U.S.,” said Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard. “But more important than longevity has been the remarkable role that they have played in building the judges association and urging Indiana judges generally to meet a higher standard.”

The Baker judges

A native of Aurora in southern Indiana, Judge Baker is the son of the county doctor. His uncle, Judge Lester Baker, was his dad’s brother and called “Uncle Bake” by family. Though he may not have realized it at the time, Judge Baker says his uncle played a part in his becoming a lawyer and ultimately joining the bench.

Earning his LLB from what is now the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Lester Baker was elected to the unified Dearborn and Ohio Circuit court in 1948 after returning from World War II and becoming the Dearborn County prosecutor. He moved up through the ranks of the Indiana Judges Association board in the mid-1950s and eventually to the post of president in 1970-1971. This was a pivotal year in the state judiciary that included a constitutional restructuring of the courts which created the current appellate court system.

When the younger Baker was working as an attorney in Bloomington in the mid-1970s, a local judge asked if he wanted to fill an opening on the bench. Judge Baker recalls thinking that it would be a temporary job for a year, and he learned the position would be with a new “county court” being created to replace the local town and city courts. The condition: he’d have to switch political parties.

Judge Baker says he struggled with the decision, and he called his uncle for advice about what to do.

“Son, you have to make a choice,” Judge Baker recalls his uncle telling him. “You can go for the good pay or a good career in public service - but don’t be confused, you can’t have both. And once you become a judge, you won’t go back.”

Then a single man, Judge Baker made the choice and later moved up to Superior and Circuit seats before eventually being named in the late 1980s to the state’s intermediate appellate court, where he served as chief judge from February 2007 through the end of 2010.

Judge Baker represented one of the local court districts on IJA’s board of managers and later, once he joined the appellate court, he held one of the at-large spots on the board. At the time, he explained, the Court of Appeals judges didn’t have their own seat on the association so he was the first and only person to occupy that chair.

Now, the chief judge has his or own seat on the board, he said, and that’s been a position he has held for the past three years until handing the leadership over to Chief Judge Margret Robb on Jan. 1.

“I was a law student at the time (in 1970) when Uncle Bake served as president, and (he) was alive while I was going through the chairs but not alive when I was the president,” he said of his January 1987 to June 1989 presidency that began two years after his uncle’s death. “But his widow did see me, and that was very meaningful to our family.”

An evolving association

Most of the history of the Indiana Judges Association isn’t written or published anywhere, but held in the minds of those who’ve served in leadership positions and carried on the story through the years. Those who’ve been around the Indiana judiciary the longest or involved with the Judicial Center and Division of State Court Administration say that Judge Baker is the most authoritative source on the IJA’s founding and evolution.

“I’ve become the historian,” Judge Baker says. “I’m not sure if I’d ever sat and visited with the original founders, but I’m sure that I have sat with those who sat and visited with those founders.”

Judge Baker says the association evolved from the gathering of some local judges at an Indiana State Bar Association meeting in 1934. Funded by the more than 400 members’ dues, the voluntary association has kept the original mission through the years to “cultivate the acquaintance of Indiana judges; to assist each other in mutual problems; to work with representatives of the state agencies for the improvement of Indiana government; to provide a source of judicial membership for committees outside the Association and to exert a coordinated effort toward better and simpler administration of justice and clearer, more uniform procedures in all courts.”

Judges in those early years and even through the 1970s say that it was more of a social club, and the lobbying and legislative issues weren’t as large a part of the association as they are now. Judge Thomas Milligan, who recently retired from Montgomery Circuit Court after 36 years on the bench, said that he started getting involved because it was a social opportunity to meet and learn from other judges statewide.

“The primary focus now is on legislation and the Legislature, and secondarily it’s about socialization,” said the judge who served in leadership positions in the 1990s and was president in 2001. “I know John has been involved all along and pretty consistently and has the institutional memory. I hope there’s someone there who will have enough interest and knowledge to carry the institutional memory forward and be guided by what’s happened in the past.”

Though the organization itself has evolved through the years into more of a legislative lobbying arm of the judiciary, Judge Baker said many of the issues have remained the same: reform has been a key issue through the decades often focusing on the same concerns. The largest period of growth for the Indiana judiciary came in 1976 with the creation of county courts, leading to 58 new judgeships and a debate about whether those new judicial officers should be able to join the association.

A special IJA committee in the 1970s chaired by then-state court Judges Sue Shields in Hamilton County and Michael Kanne in Jasper Circuit recommended sweeping reforms to the state judiciary, and those ideas were revisited in the 1980s and are still under debate now with the courts’ New Way Forward report, according to Judge Baker.

“I find it interesting that everyone who looks at Indiana’s court system comes up with the same recommendations on reform,” he said. “We’ve been able to piecemeal some in and will be asking the General Assembly for more breadth to do more, but there has never seemed to be a reception that wants to do it all at once. The discussions are always about the same, with little nuances here and there. But the judges association has kept the discussion going.”

Chief Justice Shepard credits his appellate colleague with being a driving force not only in keeping those issues on the forefront, but also in changing how IJA operates and advocates for the state’s judges. Judge Baker served as president at a time the association was restructuring its leadership succession, and as a result he served about six months longer than the typical two-year time period that others do. During that time, he came up with the idea of an annual officer’s retreat where a group gathers in the summer to map out what the new year will entail, according to the chief justice. Judge Baker also paved the way for the pension reform and compensation changes that the Legislature has made through the years, Chief Justice Shepard said.

“He’s created the modern template for this state’s judges association, and we’re in a completely different and vastly better place than we’ve ever been,” Chief Justice Shepard said.

The coming years are likely to be challenging ones for the state’s judiciary, with courts facing the prospect of operating with fewer resources, higher caseloads, and increased scrutiny from lawmakers trying to find more places to cut costs. The IJA is leading the lobbying effort for court reform statewide and has mapped out many proposals that some lawmakers have expressed interest in introducing during the 2011 legislative session.

While Judge Baker has relinquished his board of managers’ duties with the end of his chief judgeship, the new chief judge says he shouldn’t be so quick to see that as the end. Chief Judge Robb might have conflicting schedules and plans to ask Judge Baker to be the acting chief judge at least for the first meeting, she said. Meanwhile, Judge Baker says he doesn’t plan to stop being involved in the association that is so close to his family’s heart.

“It’s been fun, and I’ll miss it because I had the chance to work on some of those key court issues we’ve been trying to tackle for so long. But I won’t abandon those issues, and will remain active and interactive as much as possible.”•

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  1. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

  2. A high ranking bureaucrat with Ind sup court is heading up an organization celebrating the formal N word!!! She must resign and denounce! http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

  3. ND2019, don't try to confuse the Left with facts. Their ideologies trump facts, trump due process, trump court rules, even trump federal statutes. I hold the proof if interested. Facts matter only to those who are not on an agenda-first mission.

  4. OK so I'll make this as short as I can. I got a call that my daughter was smoking in the bathroom only her and one other girl was questioned mind you four others left before them anyways they proceeded to interrogate my daughter about smoking and all this time I nor my parents got a phone call,they proceeded to go through her belongings and also pretty much striped searched my daughter including from what my mother said they looked at her Brest without my consent. I am furious also a couple months ago my son hurt his foot and I was never called and it got worse during the day but the way some of the teachers have been treating my kids they are not comfortable going to them because they feel like they are mean or don't care. This is unacceptable in my mind i should be able to send my kids to school without worry but now I worry how the adults there are treating them. I have a lot more but I wanted to know do I have any attempt at a lawsuit because like I said there is more that's just some of what my kids are going through. Please respond. Sincerely concerned single parent

  5. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

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