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History-loving attorneys tell the stories of people, places past

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Libby Cierzniak loves to rummage through dusty boxes to see what she might find.

So much hunting has reaped treasures that now compete for space in her house, office, garage and basement. Although the shelves are filled, the Faegre Baker Daniels LLP attorney did not want to stop collecting. So she turned to writing about the things she stumbled across.

il-libby-cierzniak01-15col.jpg Faegre Baker Daniels LLP partner Libby Cierzniak digs up the stories behind the historical treasures she finds, such as those on display in her office. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

She is most interested in “trying to find ways to make old objects and history relevant to people so they will care about it,” she explained. The items become relevant when people understand how they connect the past to the present.

Highlighting eras and ways of living long gone is a passion shared by many attorneys. Some take their fascination with the past beyond reading history books.

After a day of serving clients, they scroll through microfilm at the local library or go online researching people and places. They then become storytellers who weave together the nuggets of information and tidbits of clues about an individual or incident.

Their tireless sleuthing usually ends with a blog post and sometimes even a book, but they always learn something that adds new insight into present day life.

Cierzniak’s fascination with objects can be traced to her grandmother’s antique shop. The array of items was constantly changing, and her grandmother loved to talk about the things, never admonishing Cierzniak to not touch.

Through her research, she was able to learn the house next door to her current home was purchased in 1877 by Calvin Fletcher Jr., son of Calvin Fletcher, the first lawyer to practice in Indianapolis. She also learned about the heartbreak that visited the house when she happened to find an 1889 Valentine’s Day card addressed to Fletcher Wagner, the great-grandson of the senior Calvin Fletcher.

She dug into Wagner’s life and concluded he likely would have become as prominent a leader as his great-grandfather. He founded the daily newspaper, the “Echo,” at Shortridge High School and attended Harvard Law School. He was also a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship, but the young man disappeared when he was not selected.

These days she typically does her research at night, searching online sources. She devotes Saturday mornings to writing about what she has learned for the website “Historic Indianapolis.” Sometimes she ventures to the public library to scroll through microfilm or to the Indiana Historical Society to look at the “amazing things” stored there.

She has also been able to make connections and find resources via social media.

“I would not equate me with a true historian,” Cierzniak said. “I am trying to make this fun and relevant for people while being factual and accurate.”

lafayette-ivy-room-credit-indiana-historical-society-15col.jpg Ken Turchi, assistant dean of communications and marketing at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, worked in the Lafayette L.S. Ayres & Co. department store (pictured above in 1958) as a college student.  (Photo courtesy Indiana Historical Society)

Behind the cash register

Ken Turchi grew up in an era when going shopping was a special event and sales clerks were expected to uphold high customer service standards.

So much has changed in retail that he admits he can barely stand to buy clothes in a store today. However, Turchi has preserved days past in his book, “L.S. Ayres and Company: The Store at the Crossroads of America,” published in December 2012 by the Indiana Historical Society Press.

As a college student in the 1970s, he spent a couple of summers working at the Indiana-born store’s Lafayette location. There, his supervisor, Mary Alice Fogarty, instilled in him the principles of customer service. The clerks were not to stand around idly chatting with each other, but rather they were to show

and sell the merchandise to the consumers. “It was fun,” Turchi said. “We were taught to believe it was something special to work there.”

Turchi liked retail and even considered a career in the field but decided instead to go to law school. Today, Turchi is the assistant dean at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

turchi Turchi

His book chronicles the history of the iconic Indiana department store from 1872 to 2006. Turchi researched and wrote for five years, spending most of his Saturdays at the Indiana Historical Society going through company documents and photos. He also tracked down former employees and executives, recording their memories of working at Ayres.

His effort recently won first place in the Midwest Regional Interest: Text category of the 23rd annual Midwest Books Awards.

Turchi credits his legal training with helping him write nonfiction. He was meticulous in his research, working to understand the facts so he could give an accurate recounting of the store’s history. Proof of his attention to detail is apparent in the final manuscript’s roughly 1,000 footnotes.

Undoubtedly, Mrs. Fogarty would be proud.

Among the tombstones

Jessica Tucker Ballard loves to know where the bodies are buried.

il-jessica-ballard03-15col.jpg Jessica Tucker Ballard, clerk in the Indiana Court of Appeals, indulges her love of history by visiting cemeteries with her family. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

As a youngster growing up on the eastside of Indianapolis, the clerk in the Indiana Court of Appeals spent time sleuthing in cemeteries with her mother. She still explores gravesites with her mother, visits family tombstones with her grandmother and is introducing her 4-year-old daughter to the family tradition.

Ballard wants to know who lies beneath the fancy headstones, where they came from and what they did.

She has turned that wonderment into a full-time hobby. Ballard describes herself as an attorney by day and amateur historian by night. She writes blog posts for “Historic Indianapolis.” Currently, she has turned her attention to old advertisements.

Recently, she wrote about an entry from 1823 that advertised the legal services of attorney Obed Foote. The ad specifically states he would not handle any business “under the denomination of pettifogging,” a term used in the past for unethical, dishonest or petty legal business.

“I think that ad for me is absolutely hilarious,” Ballard said. “That’s the law nerd in me coming out.”

Growing up, her family spent time touring the Abraham Lincoln memorial sites around the state and wandering through museums. Researching history gives her the opportunity to learn something new, oftentimes about the places and businesses she became familiar with as a child.

She spends a couple of hours at night researching her subjects online. The discovery sometimes becomes so intriguing she stays up long past her bedtime.

“To me, it doesn’t seem like work or anything,” Ballard said. “That is having fun.”

Under the marquee

Listening to Fort Wayne attorney Stan Hood talk about the history of movies is more enthralling than many of the motion pictures that are shown on the silver screen.

Forget the dazzling starlets and rugged leading men. Hood knows movie theaters.

He can talk about how the 1903 film, “The Great Train Robbery,” was the first successful movie because it told a story where previous motion pictures were clips of moving locomotives or newsreels. Then he will delve into the rise of the nickelodeons, the introduction of popcorn and candy into the theaters, double features and air conditioning.

More than bricks, mortar and celluloid, Hood detailed how important movies were in the decades before television. By studying what happened under the marquee, he said, we can learn about American life in general.

He started researching the history of movie theaters in Fort Wayne in 1997, the 100-year anniversary of the first showing of a motion picture in the city. Initially, Hood would spend a couple of hours at the public library each night after work, but with retirement in 2007, he has accelerated his pace.

Movies and history were staples of Hood’s childhood. Saturday afternoons in the 1940s and 1950s were spent inside the darkened theater. History books were first opened during his slow, boring recovery from chicken pox.

Ever since, history has remained intriguing. Indeed, before he went to law school, Hood taught history at a junior high school for six years. Now with ending credits on his legal career having rolled, he is returning to his roots.

“History has become a very, very nice hobby,” he said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. 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)

  4. "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.

  5. 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.

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