IBA: Interrogatories - Candid Q&A with the Bench and Bar

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Elaine Brown Brown

She is a graduate of Indiana University and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. She practiced at Thom & DeMotte before taking the trial bench in Dubois County. She was appointed to the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2008. She is Judge Elaine Brown, and she has been served with interrogatories.

Q: You began your career as an art teacher at a K-12 school. Which group is more challenging to work with: lawyers or K-12 students?

A: I had not thought of potential parallels between the two before, but there may be some. I found the elementary students sweet, innocent, and honest in their artistic endeavors. I find the law students in my Trial Advocacy class at IU Maurer School of Law bright, mostly innocent, and refreshingly honest about their shortcomings. The same is true of the young lawyers I’ve met through volunteering with the NITA Trial Advocacy course. In junior high art classes I encountered some feisty eighth grade boys; certainly the same could be said of many lawyers in practice a number of years, although not necessarily with a negative implication. The more troubling discipline issues I experienced involved a few high school girls who were mean, manipulative, and deceptive. Seems there are a couple of lawyers out there for whom this same shoe fits. But for the most part, I really liked my students and I really like lawyers.

Q: Speaking of art, what are your feelings on including (relevant) diagrams and pictures in appellate briefs?

A: I think that any demonstrative figure that helps to make a point clearer or more vivid should be used. I’ve seen Justice Breyer use a diagram in one of his concurring opinions, Judge Posner uses them in his opinions, and they have been used to illustrate points in a few of our appellate opinions. As long as they are accurate depictions, I find them helpful.

Q: You’re a Prius driver. In an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David, a Prius driver, waves to another Prius driver and becomes upset when the other driver refuses to wave back. Do you wave to other Prius drivers?

A: Only if I know the driver. While I’m all for sustainability and promoting green initiatives, and I am in fact on my second Prius, as ubiquitous as it has become, if I did wave to all Prius drivers it would be a near-constant motion.

Q: If you had to have lunch with one member of the United States Supreme Court, who would it be and why?

A: Chief Justice John Roberts, because of his Indiana ties, his considerate manner, and his conservative judicial philosophy. Actually, my first preference would be to dine with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I had the privilege of meeting her at an Appellate Judges Education Institute conference in Scottsdale several years ago and found her approachable, charming, and kind. I appreciate the ground she broke for other women on the Supreme Court and the work she did as an Arizona appellate jurist as well as her online education project, “iCivics,” which was designed to inspire students to actively participate in U.S. democracy.

Q: You spent four years as the junior member of the Indiana Court of Appeals. Were you anxious to pass that title to Judge Pyle?

A: Yes and no. While I prefer to blend in with the rest of the Court and have the “newbie” spotlight on someone else, I appreciated the youthful connotation of being the most recent appointee.

Q: What professor at the IU Maurer School of Law had the biggest impact on you?

A: I really liked Bill Oliver for tax classes and Alex Tanford for Evidence. Both were clearly experts in their fields, and Tanford, in particular, made the subject matter easy to grasp, although it seems one can never be schooled enough in the rules of evidence. I also appreciated Ron Waicukauski’s friendliness and the relaxed atmosphere of his class. He was brilliant but decidedly not arrogant.

Q: You have spent most of your career in southern Indiana. Since your appointment to the Indiana Court of Appeals, what has been your favorite thing about Indianapolis?

A: I have to mention first my position and the people I work with. I have great friendships with some of the judges, and my staff of clerks are incredibly smart lawyers who are also genuinely good people. My administrative assistant is the sweetest, brightest woman I could imagine for the job. Aside from that, I really like downtown Indy. It’s clean, attractive, vibrant, and fun with a multitude of good restaurants and entertainment venues. I also enjoy the Canal area, the Art Museum, and, of course, the Colts.

Q: You decide cases on a broad range of topics. What have been some of the most interesting subjects?

A: Cases that have arisen as a result of changing technologies involving the First Amendment, the media, jurisdictional questions, and discovery issues. I’m also intrigued by cases involving the propriety of summary judgments and the somewhat subjective determination of whether there exist questions of material fact or purely questions of law or mixed questions of law and fact. Confrontation clause issues are also engaging to me.

Q: What is on your iPod?

A: An eclectic mix: Norah Jones, Taylor Swift, Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, LeeAnn Rimes, Kenny G, Journey, Eric Clapton, Lady Antebellum, Faith Hill, Christina Aguilera, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Jack Jones, Michael Buble, and Tony Bennett, to name a few.•


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.