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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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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