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IBA: Board Approves Judicial Reform Resolutions

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The Indianapolis Bar Association Board of Directors approved two resolutions related to the judicial system in Indiana at its July meeting on Friday, July 13.

The first resolution amended the purpose of the IndyBar’s Attorneys for an Impartial Bench (AIB) Standing Committee, which was converted to a standing committee from its status as a political action committee by a previous action during the board meeting.

AIB was created by a Board Resolution passed in 2010 in response to concerns raised by the U.S. Supreme Court Caperton decision addressing the issue of judicial campaigns and the appearance of impropriety that may arise as a result of attorney contributions. The stated purpose of AIB at that time was to receive and distribute voluntary contributions to judicial candidates for the Marion Circuit and Superior Courts, providing IndyBar members with an alternate method of supporting judicial campaigns.

Based on meetings conducted and input solicited from other interested parties, AIB Officers and its Executive Committee determined that the usefulness of AIB was much broader than the purpose approved at the time of its creation. Thus, it was recommended to the Board of Directors that AIB’s purpose be amended to include the broader goal of using AIB as a mechanism to truly achieve Attorneys for an Independent Bench by all manners approved by the IndyBar Board of Directors. This resolution was unanimously approved by the board. As a result of the amended purpose, AIB will no longer collect or distribute contributions.

The second resolution approved by the Board of Directors solidified the bar’s support of judicial elections issues reform, authorizing the President or selected designees to continue to advocate for needed reform to the Marion County judicial election and selection process.

The process by which the judiciary in Marion County is presently selected and/or elected has been the subject of ongoing criticism and controversy and has been studied by the IndyBar on several occasions. Historically, the IndyBar passed a Resolution on Merit Selection in 2005, authorizing a task force to facilitate a merit selection bill in the Indiana legislature. In 2009, the IndyBar conducted a survey in which 83.4 percent of members participating indicated that they favored a nonpartisan merit selection and retention election system in Marion County over the current slating and election system. Further, in 2010, AIB was formed as noted above.

Most recently, on April 11, 2012, the Judicial Qualifications Commission issued an opinion stating that the practice of imposing a slating fee on judicial candidates in Marion County was deemed to be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. As the approved resolution notes, “this practice is but one component of the system by which partisan politics influences the selection of the Marion County judiciary.”

As a result of this approved resolution, the bar will focus on facilitating dialogue related to both short- and long-term solutions designed to implement a better system for selecting Marion County judges, as well as seeking the repeal or reform of the current slating fee practice. All actions related to this effort will be subject to approval by the Board of Directors.•

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  1. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  2. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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