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IndyBar: Interrogatories

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Joel M. Schumm

Clinical Professor of Law, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law


He is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, the University of Cincinnati, and the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He served as a law clerk to Justice Theodore Boehm of the Indiana Supreme Court and Judge Paul Mathias of the Indiana Court of Appeals before joining the faculty at the McKinney School of Law. An award-winning scholar, he is Joel M. Schumm, and he has been served with interrogatories.



Q You’re an accomplished appellate advocate, but you were also an appellate litigant in the now-famous traffic infraction case of Schumm v. State. If you hadn’t represented yourself, who would have been on your short list to represent you?

A Indiana has many incredibly talented appellate lawyers, and I would have been lucky to have any one of them. Because I was appealing a $206.50 judgment, though, I would have chosen someone who would not have (1) told me I was completely nuts for pursuing an appeal or (2) caused me to take out a second mortgage on my house.



Q What advice do you give your students for navigating this incredibly difficult legal job market?

A Develop some connections by proving yourself though an externship or part-time job. Even in this tough market, I know many students who have landed permanent job through this route. That said, good (or at least respectable) grades, especially in legal writing, still matter for many jobs.



Q If you could change one thing about Indiana appellate procedure, what would it be?

A Electronic filing of briefs. My students have uploaded their writing assignments to an electronic dropbox for the past decade; I never touch a piece of paper in critiquing and returning them. I welcome the day I will not have to take each appellate brief to the printer, pick up the bound copies a few hours later, and then drop them off or mail them to the clerk’s office.



Q You’re a prolific author of appellate briefs, having participated in more than 100 Indiana appellate cases. Describe your writing process.

A I’ll briefly describe the process for briefs I write alone and then the process for cases in which I supervise students through the Appellate Clinic at the law school.

I read the record right away, make some notes, and ruminate about potential issues for at least a few days (sometimes during the morning run) before drafting anything. Some records present one or more strong issues; others require more rumination and ultimately some creativity. As I work through potential issues, I will do some legal research while drafting an argument. I always begin with the argument section but in cases with particularly helpful or important facts will draft the fact section fairly early in the process. The remaining sections are then pretty easy to draft. Before any brief is filed, I have someone proofread not just for typographical errors but also flow, clarity, and substance.

The process for cases in which I supervise students in the Appellate Clinic is a little different. Every student reads the record in every case and is instructed not to do any research. We meet as a group to brainstorm potential issues, and each student is then assigned his or her own case. Issues are winnowed based on research and further thought, and we usually go through at least a couple drafts before discussing a near-final draft as a class, which includes input from experienced appellate practitioners.



Q Which Indiana appellate judge would you most like to have a beer with and why?

A We are fortunate to have such an accessible group of appellate judges in Indiana. Lawyers are able to interact with them regularly at CLEs and bar association functions. Some of the most interesting discussion can be found over drinks the night before the Indiana Public Defender Council’s annual appellate CLE in May, which always includes at least one appellate judge as a speaker.



Q You were instrumental in the creation of the Indiana Appellate Institute, an IndyBar program modeled after Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute that conducts moot arguments for advocates set to appear before Indiana appellate courts. What do you see as the future for the institute?

A I hope more advocates, especially those doing their first appellate argument, will take advantage of the Institute. We have a wonderful group of volunteer “judges” who spend time preparing for the argument, ask great questions likely to come up in the actual argument, and provide invaluable, constructive feedback. Professor Eugene Volokh, who mooted his Brewington argument before a panel that included Professor/Justice Sullivan, found the experience “tremendously useful.”



Q You are a guest-blogger at the Indiana Law Blog. If Professor Volokh invited you to also become a guest-blogger at the Volokh Conpsiracy, would you accept?

A That would be an incredibly flattering offer, which would be difficult to decline. I am somewhat spoiled in offering commentary for the ILB, though, because Marcia Oddi offers great feedback, editing, and (at times) filtering before anything I write is posted. (Related side note: I do not have a Twitter account. Some topics or phrases that seem like a good idea at first blush are best kept to oneself or a small group of friends.)



Q Is it easy for you to recognize the students who will be the most successful after graduation?

A Occasionally I am surprised. I view success in terms of professional satisfaction, though. A license to practice law offers enormous potential, and people take different paths in pursuing that potential. Depending on the individual, success might come through making partner at a big firm, landing an important political job, or making a difference in the lives of others through non-profit or governmental work.



Q What’s on your iPod?



A I use my iPod when running, so it has a variety of upbeat (no country) music spanning the last few decades.



Q How do you pronounce your last name? I have heard at least a couple variations.

A Rhymes with room—not rum. But I’ll answer to anything except scum.•

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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