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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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