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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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