Indiana Judges Association: Could judicial Olympics cure court budget woes?

David J. Dreyer
September 26, 2012
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IJA-Dreyer-DavidMy court financial officer, Prudence Darknight, called me recently, and it went something like this:

Prudence: Judge Dreyer?

Me: Who wants to know?

Prudence: The computer says your budget has run out of money for supplies.

Me: What supplies?

Prudence: Things like copy paper, copy ink, copy toner, etc.

Me: We’ll just stop making copies. We’re in a paperless society now.

Prudence: Even cyberspace still needs a hard-copy backup, judge.

Me: So can’t we just move money from some other budget area?

Prudence: Only if you do not want your Indiana Lawyer subscription anymore.

This, of course, was where I drew the line. So we are thinking of operating without any copy paper or rubber bands until further notice.

But then I went home, sat down and watched the Olympics. I grew weary of water polo intricacies and switched channels to some sort of prurient reality show about a kid named Honey Boo. So I switched again and got a rerun of Judge Judy. Stabbing the “mute” button, I sat in silence – and then it hit me. The world loves reality TV – or at least advertisers think they do – like the Olympics and judges acting out.

Why not sell some sort of “Judicial Olympics” to Madison Avenue? This can only be a win-win. People can watch real judges in real competition while beer companies market the latest adult beverages. Personally, I see no ethical issue if the state trial judges form their own LLC to produce “The Judicial Olympics” program and sell commercial time to W.H. Harrison Governor’s Reserve Whiskey (an actual Indiana product). As long as the proceeds are used to supplement court budgets, and the contestants wear robes while competing, it can’t go wrong. And we judges would need very little time to practice or train. Consider, for example, a basic pentathlon of events:

Wrestling pleading titles

Contestant judges compete in time trials to untangle and determine the identity of a moving party from challenging pleading titles, such as “Second Motion for Extension of Time to File A Response To Reply in Opposition to Respondents’ Motion To Reconsider Court’s Denial of Defendant’s Fourth Enlargement of Time Within Which to Respond to Plaintiff’s Third Counterclaim.” Contestants must compete until an accurate determination is achieved, despite darkness.

Incivility sprints

Working from a randomly assigned posture (standing at desk, driving, sitting on the bench, etc.), contestant judges would develop creative vitriolic euphemisms from a random scenario, such as “A lawyer’s cell phone goes off during opponent’s closing statement to a jury. You call him a ___________.” Points are assigned by creativity, speed and artistic reference, i.e. “scurvy knave” from Shakespeare.

Letter-writing steeplechase

Without a computer, email or even a dictionary, contestant judges must write a letter with a competent and professional point of view on assigned topics to three different hypothetical persons: a) an employee who is being fired; b) a news media reporter who wants to know how much copy paper you use; and c) the Judicial Qualifications Commission in response to a pro se litigant’s complaint. Points are assigned for the following: speed, tone, consistency and number of words that are likely not understood by the hypothetical recipient (such as ubiquitous, tardy, precipitous and “no.”)

Logic vaulting

After a starting shot, contestant judges must run to the bar and develop spoken arguments to prove a randomly given point without using any of the following:

• It is what it is

 • So I’m like . . .

• in terms of . .

• inapposite

• unavailing

This is a pure speed race: all sentences must be complete, grammatically correct and still make sense. Use of “uh” results in penalty.

Spellchecking without a net

This finale might be the most intense event of the competition. Contestant judges must review randomly drawn draft briefs to find spelling and grammatical errors using only their own eyes and a pencil. Not only would this allow color commentary and replays of slashing red pencils, it might also qualify for CLE for any lawyer watching.

Overall, the quality of a court system is the dedication and devotion of its judges. That will never be a problem because our judges continually re-commit themselves to operating courts with competence, diligence, promptness, patience, courtesy and respect. Despite challenges to government resources everywhere, our courts will be on the job even if we run out of copy paper. •


Judge David J. Dreyer has been a judge for the Marion Superior Court since 1997. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Law School. He is a former board member of the Indiana Judges Association. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.