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Indiana courts to host judicial independence panel discussion

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The Indiana Supreme Court is hosting a panel discussion in mid-February to discuss the broad topic of judicial independence and how courts operate in our democracy, and it’s turning to the online and social media world to help shape how the event unfolds.

Adopting an American Bar Association Judicial Division project known as “The Least Understood Branch,” the program runs from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 and will be held at Martin University in Indianapolis.

This program is a direct result of efforts by Disciplinary Committee Executive Secretary G. Michael Witte, who chairs the ABA’s Judicial Division and has created and hosted these events nationally.

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker will talk about the state’s various judicial selection systems and also Supreme Court operations, while Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer will moderate a panel discussion on judicial independence that asks “Is it we the people, or we the courts?” Members of that panel include U.S. Judge Sarah Evans Barker from the Southern District of Indiana and Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis professor John Hill, who teaches political and legal theory.

In honor of Black History Month, the program will include past Indiana State Bar Association president Rod Morgan, an attorney at Bingham McHale, who will discuss an Indianapolis African-American attorney named John Morton Finney who was admitted to the state bar in 1935 and practiced until age 105.

Attorneys can receive 1.5 CLE credits for attending this program, and those interested in that credit must reserve a seat by contacting Sarah Kidwell at skidwell@courts.state.in.us.

The Indiana courts are using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word and create discussion in advance in order to determine how the program itself might be conducted. Online visitors to the court’s event page can choose to “like” the event, but whether they do that or not they can find access to various program materials or a new music video featuring the courts. They can also ask questions and participate in discussions with others online.

This is another tool the Indiana courts have been using recently to interact through social media, which also includes more than 500 followers on Twitter from the media, law firms, and members of the public, court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said.

Based on what responses the court receives, the program could entail a range of issues such as how judges are chosen or the role of judicial pay and legislative oversight as it relates to the judiciary’s independence, she said.

“We’re not sure what to expect or what the interaction will be, but it could lead to some jumping off points for the discussion to focus on,” she said. “We’re looking to appeal to a larger audience, maybe students who might be interested and use social media to communicate. This Facebook event could be a way to introduce the judicial branch to a larger audience who might not normally be interested, but could be if they find out about it through a friend.”

Members of the public and the legal community can submit questions for the panel to consider that day as well as offer an opinion on the role of the courts or judicial independence through the event Facebook page.

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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