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Indiana attorney gets award for work on recusals

IL Staff
December 31, 2009
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A partner at an Indianapolis law firm is being recognized by the National Center for State Courts for his work on judicial recusals, and he has some ideas that state chief justices and Indiana's top court could find interesting.

George T. Patton Jr. of Bose McKinney & Evans, a Washington D.C.-based partner in the litigation group who co-chairs the firm's appellate group, praises the Indiana Supreme Court's leadership on judicial recusals and its code of conduct, but thinks that one change might be worth exploring here.

With five justices, one recusal could leave the court with a 2-2 split decision because of the four remaining to decide a case. Other states have adopted policies allowing lower appellate or trial judges to fill in for recused judges, and Indiana would benefit from that practice, Patton said.

The other suggestion Patton has for chief justices nationally is to adopt the American Bar Association's model judicial canons, something Indiana did and put into effect in January 2009.

His recommendations come after a June decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 2252 (2009), which offered guidance on how judges should recuse themselves in cases where they've received campaign contributions from litigants or have an interest. Patton considers it at the top of the list in state court impact and in the top five of all federal and state cases that will likely be remembered in the future.

Patton's work stems from an amicus curiae brief he crafted and filed on behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices - something that had a significant impact on the high court's decision-making in Caperton. That brief was mentioned eight times in the opinion, he said.

Since that ruling, Patton has closely monitored the national scene on how state courts are coping with Caperton. So far, he hasn't observed any "flood of recusal motions" as some feared could happen as a result of the decision. The topic has also spurred congressional hearings on the issue of recusals in recent months, and Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor Charles Geyh has testified on the issue.

For his work, Patton is receiving the NCSC's 2009 Distinguished Service Award, considered the organization's highest recognition that is presented annually for contributions to the judicial administration field.

Patton will receive his award Feb. 2 at the chief justices' conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He'll give a 30-minute presentation entitled "Recusal: Where Art Thou?" which also delves into his previous work on the related SCOTUS decision of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002) that addressed judicial free speech issues and has led to conflicting caselaw on judicial canons nationally.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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