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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. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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