Should all judges be lawyers?

October 27, 2008
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From IL reporter Michael Hoskins:

If you’re responsible for applying the law, no matter if the case is a traffic infraction or a civil or criminal proceeding, is a law license required? The answer is no, but it’s a topic being debated as it applies to city and town court judges.

The Commission on Courts on Friday talked about whether all of Indiana’s city and town court judges should have to be attorneys in good standing. Only 10 have that requirement now, while 56 city or town courts don’t have the attorney requirement. There are 35 layman judges at that level without a law degree. Some think it should apply to everyone on the bench.

Chief Justice Randall Shepard is in favor of the idea, noting that these judges are on the front lines and litigants must have the best possible legal representation from everyone at that level. Often, higher courts of record and the appellate level must handle the consequences of what comes from those most-local courtrooms and it makes sense for attorneys to be the ones issuing those decisions, he said. But the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and several local judges are opposed to the idea. IACT attorney Jodie Woods said this falls under the home rule umbrella and it isn’t right to force an area with few attorneys to have to pick one of those to be a judge.

Three attended the commission meeting, including Jeffersonville City Judge Kenneth Pierce who offered a more neutral viewpoint. While he truly thinks these judges should be attorneys (he is licensed), he knows sitting non-attorney judges with more experience and expertise than some attorneys.

Some compromises were laid out, such as removing a residency requirement that would allow out-of-city or town court judges to serve a nearby jurisdiction; and applying the law-degree requirement only for the future so all sitting judges would remain on the bench until they chose not to run. Commission members weren’t all convinced and a motion to recommend this to lawmakers failed, but the idea will likely come up again. The chief justice noted that this issue is not an emergency, but a useful idea that could take years to implement statewide.
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  1. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  2. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  3. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  4. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  5. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

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