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Juvenile judge returns from military mission

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Until Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores stepped away from the bench and left the United States, the juvenile judge didn’t truly know how much she appreciates this country’s legal system.

It took a year in Afghanistan as part of a special military mission to teach her that lesson. That insight came through teaching Afghans how to put an agricultural infrastructure in place, helping create a public defense system for that country and strengthening the role women lawyers have in shaping that society for the future.

moores-15col.jpg During her military mission to the Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores visited a women’s Shura and comforted a little girl with Down syndrome. The judge said it was important to the Afghan women to see how much the U.S. military loved and cared for their children. (Submitted photo)

A 26-year veteran in the Indiana Army National Guard, Moores returned stateside after an 11-month mission that spanned Sept. 2010 to August 2011. Now, while glad to be home and back in the courtroom, she can’t wait for the chance to return to Afghanistan.

“It’s a bigger transition than I thought it would be, because it’s not just about combat and peace – it’s about people,” she said, sitting in her office shirtly after resuming her judicial duties Nov. 14. “The experience was amazing and everything happening there is so important. It really makes you appreciate the rule of law and the fair and balanced judicial system we have here.”

The trip overseas, her first military assignment outside the U.S., was the third of five agribusiness-focused missions aimed at redeveloping the country’s agricultural infrastructure. She and her 10-person team were stationed in the Khost province, a mountainous region located in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. The task is to teach Afghans about crop production, reforesting and animal husbandry along with developing a 4-H program.

While her military and legal backgrounds set the stage for this mission, the judge’s personal life offered the rest of what she needed in experience on the agricultural front. Moores has expertise in some of the agricultural issues she helped teach in Afghanistan. She and her husband live in a horsing community in southeast Marion County and they’ve raised and maintained several horses through the years. That knowledge was a key to her mission in Afghanistan, Moores said.

The mission’s agricultural and farming focus included book learning and hands-on activity, such as teaching the locals how to graft fruit trees and plant orchards, maintain greenhouses, utilize the local streams and terrain, and grow and store protein.

For example, eggs are viewed as “treasures” in that area because the native population – women particularly – don’t eat enough protein, Moores said. Electricity and cold-storage isn’t widely available, so any meat and protein that’s cultivated doesn’t last.

Moores participated in a project that is helping to establish what’s called the Future Farmers of Afghanistan, modeled after the U.S. program known as the Future Farmers of America. That program is being implemented around Afghanistan and teaches high school students how to make solar food dehydrators, which are used to remove moisture from food to aid in preservation. Those can be built in about four hours, Moores said.

“We not only trying to wrap up a war, we’re rebuilding a nation,” she said.

On the legal front, Moores said two of the most important projects she participated in during her mission involved helping to establish a public system and encouraging female lawyers to advocate about women’s rights.

One initiative brings Afghan women attorneys from another province to talk with the Khost women about their rights – issues such as their right to marry if younger than 16 and how the dowry price belongs to the woman, not her family. Those issues are key economic influences and Moores said that educating the population on those matters can help make women more a part of that country’s future.

As far as attorney representation, Moores explained that with constant regime changes each decade, the Afghan people who are middle aged or older have come to expect a system of bribery and corruption in their justice system. The litigants there don’t want a public defender even if one might be appointed, she said, because they see that as just another person they’d have to pay.

“It’s just starting to tip,” Moores said about the Afghan legal infrastructure. “But it’s about stability, showing them that it will still be there and work once we leave.”

Moores said the experience changed her life, and gave her a new appreciation for what the U.S. system is based on.

“We’re so inappreciative of what we have here. Our court deals with some of the poorest people in the county, but we just don’t know what it’s like to really be living in poverty,” she said. “I might need a slideshow in court of what real poverty looks like.”

moores03-15col.jpg Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores took part in a military agribusiness mission to Afghanistan between September 2010 and August 2011. She returned to the juvenile court bench on Nov. 14. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Being away from the court that she’s presided over since 2005 wasn’t easy, she said. Magistrate Judge Gary Chavers presided in her absence and did everything from keeping court committee meetings going to maintaining a running list of new caselaw that came down while Moores was gone.

“I never had to worry about what was going on here while I was away,” she said. “It’s like they didn’t even miss me at all.”

The judge’s transition back to the American legal community resonates for many judges and attorneys who have returned to their civilian legal responsibilities.

In Morgan County, chief deputy prosecutor Bob Cline, who served in the first agribusiness mission in the same region as Moores, said it took him about a year to fully settle into his civil legal role again and even want to do jury trials again. He recalled walking the scene of a school shooting in Martinsville and having Afghanistan images come to mind as he saw the blood and bandages at the school.

“I’m glad I went, because it made me more appreciative of the rule of law. I’ve been a law abiding and supporting guy for a long time, but once you see a country that doesn’t respect it, you’re more grateful.”

Indiana Justice Steven David echoed those sentiments, and said he had similar experiences during the two times he was called to service at both Fort Gordon in Georgia and then for 20-months representing Guantanamo Bay detainees. He said the emotional and physical challenges of the service itself are difficult on a personal level, but so is the concern about making sure one’s court continues operating efficiently without problems.

“You just want to make sure there’s a smooth process for the lawyers and litigants, and that everything is taken care of while you’re gone and then when you come back,” he said. “Leaving is always harder, but coming back is a struggle, too.”

Moores said she wants to go back in order to continue the work she saw first-hand. Her willingness to return overseas isn’t something she expected before leaving the U.S. When she found out about her assignment and started preparing for the trip in 2009, she thought this would be her swan song for her long military career.

She was a lieutenant colonel at the time, but in January she received a promotion to colonel – a designation that she thinks could open the door for a return to Afghanistan.

“I feel very unresolved and there’s so much more to do there,” Moores said. “I believe in what we’re doing there and I truly believe in the Afghan people, and I want them to succeed so badly.”•

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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.

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  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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