Taking time for civics

April 7, 2010
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IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this post.

A group of about 30 Munster High School students enjoyed their time with We the People program coordinators from the Indiana Bar Foundation, attorneys, and others who helped judge their presentations on Tuesday at Baker & Daniels downtown Indianapolis office. This was the firm’s fifth time hosting an Indiana We the People team just weeks before the national competition, which takes place April 22-27.

It was the first time I was able to attend and observe such a practice.

While the We the People  program in Indiana is supported in large part by the IBF, these practice days have taken place at the law firm since spring windstorms damaged the Indiana State Bar Association’s offices at the Regions Bank Building in 2006. That year, Baker & Daniels attorney and We the People alum Caryn Glawe suggested the firm could host the team that would represent Indiana at the national championships in Washington, D.C.

The first and subsequent groups of students have been particularly impressed not only with their day at a big law firm, including views of downtown Indianapolis from the 27th floor, but also that attorneys would take the time out of their busy schedules to work with them, said Erin Braun, director of civic education for the Indiana Bar Foundation.

As part of yesterday’s visit, chair and chief executive partner Thomas C. Froehle Jr. told students he was thrilled that the firm was able to host their visit.

Partner and We the People volunteer Scott Chinn also addressed the students, comparing their work to that of the Butler University basketball team.

Like the team that lost by one basket in a nail biter Monday night, Chinn said the key things for the students to keep in mind for the upcoming competition were execution, character, and enthusiasm. He added they should plan, as citizens, to participate by voting, to educate others about the issues while being respectful of opinions that were different from their own, and to remonstrate when they had reason to disagree with the direction the government was heading, based on what they learned in the We the People courses.

Perhaps more impressive than the attorneys giving their time were the students themselves.

One group compared the Magna Carta, the U.S. Bill of Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Watching this group of students discuss the importance of these documents made me hopeful for students going through the program in Indiana and in other states. If I hadn’t needed to get back to the office, I would have stayed for the rest of the afternoon’s sessions.

And I wasn’t the only one who was impressed. Judges for this group said the students did well overall, and gave them a few pointers to impress the judges at the national level.

Judges for the practice session included former ISBA president Rich Eynon; Jill Baisinger, the Hamilton Southeastern High School teacher who helped her school’s team win fifth place in the national competition in 2009; Seth Lahn, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington; and Mark Sausser, an attorney at Baker & Daniels.

“When we take on the rigors of civic education with the vigor generally reserved for sport, and when the arena we play in is one of the top law firms in the state, there is something right in society,” said Michael Gordon, the teacher for the Munster students.

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  • Civics education is critical to creating informed and engaged voters in Indiana. We need more civics education in Indiana to ensure we have a healthy democracy.

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  1. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

  3. The numbers are harsh; 66 - 24 in the House, 40 - 10 in the Senate. And it is an idea pushed by the Democrats. Dead end? Ummm not necessarily. Just need to go big rather than go home. Nuclear option. Give it to the federal courts, the federal courts will ram this down our throats. Like that other invented right of the modern age, feticide. Rights too precious to be held up by 2000 years of civilization hang in the balance. Onward!

  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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