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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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