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Justice Alito headlines conference

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Relations between courts and Congress have been strained lately, and a contingent of both are meeting in Indianapolis today to explore the reasons, examine how judicial independence fits in, and try to lay groundwork for improving relations.

The Indiana State Bar Association is sponsoring the "Relations Between Congress and the Federal Courts" conference at the Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis, which began at 8:30 a.m. and features U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. as a key speaker.

More than 100 judges and attorneys are attending the daylong conference, including all five Indiana Supreme Court justices and an array of other state and federal jurists.

"We're here for a reason .... That there's a feeling, one that's not yet ripened into a conclusion, that something isn't right with relations between Congress and the federal courts," said law professor Gerard Magliocca, who talked about the needed dialogue between the branches. "It's calm but tense. We have a reason to be concerned."

Justice Alito noted issues to be concerned with most are judicial pay, growing caseloads, and ambiguous statutes written by lawmakers.

"I'm concerned about the future of the federal judiciary," he said. "We need to bridge that gap of communication."

He suggested more understanding is needed between branches, both need to exercise self-restraint in encroaching on each other's authority, and that judges and lawmakers must rise above the public's cynicism about government and courts.

Magliocca noted the issues exist with District and Circuit courts, rather than with the Supreme Court, and agreed that congressional inaction is largely to blame regarding ways for elected officials to better communicate with the judiciary. He suggests exploring a type of interbranch committee that could review and suggest policy, and a system where the Chief Justice or member of the judiciary could regularly testify before Congress, similar to how the Federal Reserve Chairman currently does on monetary policy twice a year.

Prior to Justice Alito's keynote address, a trio of Hoosier congressmen - U.S. Reps. Mike Pence, Baron Hill, and Brad Ellsworth - also weighed in on various legal issues, such as judicial salaries and compensation, cameras in courts, and how the relationship between the branches can be strengthened. All expressed worry about the line between congressional oversight of the judiciary and independence.

"The greatest threat to the judiciary in the 21st century is elitism," Pence said, noting that can be found in situations such as the nation's highest courts displaying the Ten Commandments, and having prayer to open legislative and judicial proceedings, "... where in Winchester, Indiana, you can't do those things. That tears at the fabric of credibility within the judiciary."

While the conference focuses on serious concerns, Justice Alito offered some humor by noting that he hopes his visit to Indiana will "earn him some credit" with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who grew up in Indiana.

"I'd told him when I first joined the court that I'd never been to Indiana," Justice Alito said. "He thought that was a huge gap in my background. Maybe this will earn some credit, maybe help on opinion assignments."This afternoon, a panel of judges will talk about these same issues from their perspectives. The panel includes Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard, U.S. District Chief Judge Larry McKinney in the Southern District, U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Miller Jr. in the Northern District, and U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Baker in Indianapolis who is also president of the Federal Judges Association.
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  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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