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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. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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