Ad deja vu

October 25, 2010
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Reporter Mike Hoskins wrote today's post.

Consider 2010 an echo of the general election season back in 2008, when two attorneys were vying for the Indiana Attorney General post.

One ran an advertisement criticizing how the opponent had previously represented clients that are of the type that the AG would have to prosecute. Some attorneys took issue with that, saying it’s not fair to criticize lawyers for the clients they keep.

Now, the legal community in Marion County has a sense of déjà vu.

Leading up to the Nov. 2 general election, the Marion County Prosecutor’s race has brought those same issues to light. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is leaving office at year’s end, and Republican candidate Mark Massa and Democratic candidate Terry Curry are battling for that post. Both have servitors in the state’s largest county, and Curry has also served as a defense attorney and mediator while Massa has most recently spent his time as counsel to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Recently, Massa ran a television ad condemning Curry for defending a convicted child molester on appeal. A video is online at YouTube. The case involved Steven Young, and in 2001 on direct appeal the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the man’s convictions and 80-year aggregate sentence.

Using that as ad material, Massa created the commercial entitled, “One Question for Terry Curry” and poses whether the Democratic candidate can “get tough with child predators” when he has “no problem defending them?”

That ad has caused some Indianapolis attorneys to speak out against Massa, criticizing him for that ad.

Bob Hammerle – who raised concerns about the same issue in the 2008 AG race and unsuccessfully requested the Disciplinary Commission to weigh in – has spoken out. Lawyers shouldn’t be judged by the clients they keep, he believes, and says: “I’m so disappointed with Mark Massa that I can’t even find the words to describe it. This shouldn’t be allowed to stand from the lawyers’ perspective.”

Attorneys Jon Little and Ryan Ray are also disappointed and disgusted, saying that Massa has lost their votes.

“Your ad against Mr. Curry is essentially condemning him for upholding our oath and protecting the Constitution,” says a letter from Little and Ray to candidate Massa. “As attorneys we should be doing everything in our power to bolster the confidence in our judicial system and the offices of the court. In running your misleading advertisement, that condemns an officer of the court for doing his job, you have violated the very oath of the office of prosecutor should be so desperately trying to abide by following the current administration. You have disrespected the courts of justice, judicial officers, and the Constitution. Your condemnation of the actions of a fellow attorney simply upholding our sworn oath and the Constitution raises serious questions about your own integrity.”

At this point, no one has said they’ve contacted the Disciplinary Commission about Massa’s ad. But when Hammerle did that two years ago, he didn’t get very far. At the time, the agency didn’t find an appropriate basis for formal action because if dealt with public affairs and political discourse – the heart of the First Amendment.

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