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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. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

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