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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. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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