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Former Justice Theodore R. Boehm joins Indy dispute resolution firm

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Aside from writing precedent-setting decisions and rules that govern the entire Hoosier legal community, now-retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore R. Boehm said there’s one significant part of his legacy on the state’s highest court that is mostly overlooked.

That is an atomic wristwatch he bought several years ago; it communicates every night with the Naval Observatory in Ft. Collins, Colo., to be accurate within one-tenth of a second. With a court tradition dictating that the second-newest justice lines up his four colleagues to enter the Supreme Court courtroom at precisely 9 a.m., having this watch and its precision accuracy has had a significant and practical impact on the court’s functioning.

theodore boehm Justice Theodore R. Boehm receives a standing ovation from those attending a ceremony Sept. 30 to say goodbye to the retiring jurist. (Photo courtesy of Jim Barnett)

As he put it during his recent retirement ceremony, he joked that this watch was his “only significant contribution to the judiciary.”

“Until now, I have not claimed public credit for this achievement, accomplished over considerable tripping, stumbling, and dithering by those behind me,” the 72-year old justice said at the ceremony Sept. 30. “In the future, Justice (Robert) Rucker will be the herder of the gaggle of felines, and as a token of my respect and sympathy, I am pleased to present him with this genuine used atomic watch.”

Marking the end of a 14-year career as one of the state’s top jurists, Justice Boehm told that story after many of his colleagues from the judicial and attorney ranks made their own remarks and tributes about his legal career. Well-wishers gathered inside the ornate third-floor Supreme Court courtroom at the Statehouse, celebrating the judicial career of a man who’s been an Indiana attorney since 1964 and had served on the high court bench since 1996.

Though his atomic watch story and other remarks brought laughs from those attending, the backdrop to the event was Justice Boehm’s accomplished career on the court and his time in the legal community. As a justice, he’d authored about 480 majority opinions and 80 dissents, and his judicial tenure included the creation of the oral argument webcasting, writing new appellate rules, leadership on a jury pool project, and a 2000 constitutional amendment that changed the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to a mostly discretionary role.

Those in the legal community say that Justice Boehm’s legacy will be long-remembered and that he’s served on the court in a time when the administrative side has grown significantly, and he’s allowed the overall justice system to become more efficient. At the same time, both judges and lawyers and other public officials point to his non-legal involvement that has made Indiana a better place.

“Ted Boehm has found appropriate ways to be of this community and of this entire state community,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said. “We’re so fortunate that he came our way. That a person of this degree of talent was willing to lend and invest in year after year, chapter after chapter, in diversity of ways to the like we haven’t seen. He’s been a major part in the establishment of a national reputation that Indiana has as fine a supreme court as the country knows. He leaves to his successor and to his colleagues a very, very high target in order to maintain that stellar reputation.”

Indianapolis Bar Association president Christine Hickey thanked Justice Boehm for his service on the court and his leadership in the local bar association, legal community and larger civic roles. She announced the IBA is commissioning a biography to preserve his judicial legacy for future generations.

Former law clerk Cynthia Bauerly, who in June 2008 became the commissioner of the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., represented those who’ve clerked for Justice Boehm through the years. She talked about his writing being clear and concise and “full of more baseball analogies than one might expect,” and that he was someone who clearly understands the law and its implications.

“Justice Boehm makes the work of judging look easy,” she said. “Certainly there are arguments to construct and caselaw to explain and cite into context, but at the end of the day even the hard cases looked easy for him. I think it was because he was confident of his conclusion, whether expected or not, popular or not, whether subject to political or press criticism. In each case, whether majority opinion or dissent, with humility, humanity, and sometimes humor, he’s explained why the law in his view required that result.”

In his goodbye speech, Justice Boehm noted that he’d be taking on the role of arbitrator, mediator, and “perhaps a few other roles” at Van Winkle Baten Rimstidt Dispute Resolution, an Indianapolis-based firm that was founded in 1995 and describes itself as the state’s first and oldest ADR-devoted firm.

Justice Boehm also said he didn’t plan to vanish from the public arena and that his many years in state government have given him some perspective of issues that need addressing. He criticized the many duplicative government services noted in the Kernan-Shepard report on local government reforms. He also criticized the current judicial selection slating system in Marion County that he described as “a scheme that purports to place the selection in the hands of voters but in practical effect leaves it under the control of a few party officials.”

“There are several pernicious results, not the least of which is the judges become a vehicle for raising funds for political parties,” Justice Boehm said. “Despite widespread derision, even ridicule of this system, few in government have the will to challenge it.”

Before concluding the ceremony for a reception, Justice Boehm made a point to answer the age-old question about what judges and justices wear beneath the black robes. He unzipped the robe and to applause and laughter, revealed his attire underneath: an Indiana Pacers jersey of No. 33 player Danny Granger that he wore over an Indianapolis Colts jersey of No. 18 quarterback Peyton Manning.•

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  1. 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)

  2. "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.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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