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IBA Bar Leader Series Class X: Public Safety in the Spotlight

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By Kevin Morrissey, Lewis & Kappes

Regrettably, we see all too often in the news the various threats to the safety of our citizens in Indianapolis and throughout the country. These struggles are universal and impact all of us as a society in different ways.

In March, the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Bar Leader Series X met to focus on the many public safety challenges our community faces, as well as areas of opportunity to expand public safety measures. As aspiring leaders, the message for our group was that each of us must step up to our responsibility as members of the bar and the Indianapolis community to help rectify ongoing safety and health issues as well as prevent future harm to fellow Hoosiers.

Before discussing public safety issues, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson addressed the class during the lunch hour. Mayor Peterson shared his views on leadership, specifically how individuals become leaders within organizations and communities. Interestingly, Mayor Peterson observed not necessarily the “most capable” among leaders were selected, but, instead, leaders often “self-selected” by being willing to take the “slings and arrows” that come with the role of a leader. I understood this to mean that courage is an indispensable characteristic of leadership. Leaders must have the fortitude to make unpopular decisions for the benefit of their organization or community. Mayor Peterson noted that “sometimes when you are trying to do something impossible, you just have to get started.”

Our group was then privileged to hear the story of the development of Lucas Oil Stadium and how Indianapolis negotiated a long-term relationship with the Indianapolis Colts. It was fascinating to hear the “inside baseball” version of events that led to creation of one of the NFL’s most modern stadiums and a revitalized convention center. Mayor Peterson stressed that in any negotiation, one must understand and appeal to the motivations of the other side. The key is to just “stay talking.” The process of meeting the goals of both the city and the Colts was clearly not always smooth sailing. It was intriguing to hear about some of the calculated risks the city took during negotiations. Moreover, this discussion emphasized to me that one cannot overlook the importance of personal relationships and trust in any negotiation, regardless of the dollar amount involved.

Next up were Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Marion County Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, who discussed with our group the various proactive efforts their offices are currently implementing to confront public safety issues in Marion County. Mr. Riggs was recently named Public Safety Director, having been on the job only a matter of months, though it is clear that he has hit the ground running, establishing 30 “efficiency teams” to delve into a number of issues facing the Department of Public Safety. Mr. Riggs spoke regarding the Violent Crime Review Team which will develop a strategy to reduce violent crime rates in Marion County. Unfortunately, he reported that based on intelligence information the county is anticipating a tough summer in terms of violent crime. Additionally, Mr. Riggs noted that several of the efficiency teams will be drilling down on how the government can best utilize tax dollars to provide services to the public, making it clear that he believes the government should be as efficient as possible with its dollars.

Prosecutor Curry provided a detailed survey of his office and described several of the initiatives he has put into motion to combat serious challenges facing the County. Primarily, he stressed that he is focused on “restoring trust and faith in the office.” Prosecutor Curry shared a number of achievements in his office in recent years and indicated that increased emphasis will be placed on sharing information about those successes with the public. Of note, Mr. Curry mentioned recent success in updating and improving the system by which his office collects and manages child support obligations.

Finally, we heard from Dr. George Parker, Director of the Psychiatric Unit at IU Health. Dr. Parker shared with us that 15 percent of individuals in the Indiana Department of Corrections suffer from some form of mental illness, yet, people with mental illness are at a much higher risk of being the victim of violent crime as opposed to perpetrating a violent crime. Dr. Parker discussed the competency evaluations he regularly performs for the Marion County Courts. Interestingly, Dr. Parker discussed the Tony Kiritsis case and the fact that, as a result of this trial, the Indiana Legislature switched the burden of proof for insanity-pleading defendants from the prosecution to the defense. Not being raised in Indianapolis, this account of the Kiritsis case and its aftermath made Dr. Parker’s lecture a particularly compelling one.

Overall, this session of BLS X was once again a success. In light of the Boston Marathon tragedy, public safety was on all of our minds. The speakers’ advice hit near and dear to our hearts as we looked forward to Indianapolis serving as the international hub in the upcoming months for large events like the Mini Marathon, the Indianapolis 500 and the Indiana Black Expo.•

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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