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Hebenstreit: A Special Celebration of Being an American

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IBA-hebenstreitWhat does the 4th of July mean to you? Regions Bank fireworks, Lake Wawasee, hot dogs, ice cream???? Possibly all of the above. Although holidays are very important in our family, we do not have any long standing traditions for our Nation’s birthday. Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect about being an American.

I feel that I have already won the “Lottery of Life” by being born in the United States rather than any number of other places. All you have to do is watch the evening news to see how much better our system of government works compared to any number of others. As I write this, our national leaders are negotiating to avoid the first ever default by the US on its debt. Hopefully, by the time this column is printed, the problem will be solved. But in any event, it will almost certainly be resolved in a peaceful manner.

In case you were not aware, the US District Court for the Southern District holds ceremonies on about 30 times a year for the purpose of administering the Oath of Citizenship to individuals desiring to become American citizens. Typically, the ceremonies are held in the US Courthouse in the courtroom of the Judge presiding over the ceremony. A number of groups and agencies are asked to participate and be present at the ceremony. The US Attorney‘s Office is present, the Indiana Senators and House members are either present in person or send a representative, and the IndyBar is also asked to participate. Our job is to extend a warm welcome to the new citizens and to present each with a copy of the US Constitution.

I remember reading about the Naturalization Ceremony conducted on July 4th each year. It is held at the former home of President Benjamin Harrison on North Delaware under a tent. I had always heard that Judge Sarah Evans Barker typically draws (or requests) the assignment, and that the ceremony is particularly moving. Having attended many over the years as a representative of the IndyBar, I thought it would be fun to attend the one coinciding with our Nation’s birth. There are not many “perks” to being President (other than being able to write this column every other week for a year) so at the beginning of this year, I asked Caren Chopp to assign me to the one on July 4th. It was not a mistake!

This year the ceremony was actually held on Friday, July 1 which was a glorious day. The grounds of the Harrison home were immaculate, and the air was filled with excitement and anticipation. The black Suburban of the US Marshal’s Office was blocking the driveway. There were a number of law enforcement officers from the Marshal Service as well as the Marion County Sheriff’s office in attendance, presumably since there are no metal detectors at the home. The setting was impressive.

As the ceremony got under way, Judge Barker requested that the country of each new citizen be announced and that all those from that country stand. She enlisted the children in attendance to deliver miniature American flags (donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution) to each new citizen. It was very appropriate because it kept the children engaged and provided a personal recognition to each of the 90 individuals taking the oath that morning. For any of you who have attended these ceremonies, the oath is quite impressive. Having been drafted in the late 1700’s, it uses some antiquated language which only highlights the dignity of the event. It is very moving when each new citizen relinquishes any allegiance to any government, king or potentate (whatever that is) in order to then swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Quite moving!

Being an American is something that we may take for granted. We did not have to work for it. But to observe those new citizens celebrating with their families and children rekindles the patriotic spirit. It is not an easy road to become a naturalized citizen. Those 90 individuals accomplished what we never had to do and it gives new meaning to being an American. I certainly hope they had fun celebrating our Nation’s birthday as US citizens. If you have never represented the IndyBar at one of these ceremonies, I would highly encourage you to take 2 hours out of a work day and experience that patriotic moment first hand. It is well worth your time.•

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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