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Editorial: Lawmakers don't inspire confidence

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
March 17, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial


Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan certainly spoke for us when he asked this question a couple of weeks ago:

"Wouldn't we feel better about all of this if it hadn't been enacted on partyline votes, though?"

We feel the same way about the voter ID law enacted by the Indiana General Assembly in 2005. We all might feel better about it, and the state of our government both at the state and federal level, if there were a lot less party-line voting going on. As it stands, our voter ID law seems to have done little more than give Hoosiers something to argue about.

Lawyers were back before the Indiana Supreme Court after the Indiana Court of Appeals last fall reversed a Marion County judge's decision in League of Women Voters of Indiana and League of Women Voters of Indianapolis v. Todd Rokita, No. 49S02-1001-CV-50. Our COA found the voter ID law unconstitutional because it doesn't equally apply to all and imposes qualifications that are too burdensome to some voters. Justices are now considering how those issues apply to the state constitution.

We've always thought it was a law in search of a problem to fix. The state seems unable to find a case of in-person voter ID fraud that Indiana desperately needs to prevent, while the other side has failed to produce an example of someone who was prevented from voting by the ID law.

That doesn't stop us from appreciating Justice Robert Rucker's concern voiced at the same argument: "How can you have a system of integrity if you have some people denied the right to vote ... How does that inspire confidence?"

Nothing much about the Indiana General Assembly can be described by the words "integrity" and "confidence."

Because, you see, in the waning hours of the session, our esteemed legislators revived House Enrolled Act 1491, which was passed by both chambers during the 2009 session but later vetoed by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Introduced by Rep Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, the measure purports to replace merit selection with nonpartisan elections in the St. Joseph Superior courts. It's one of only two systems statewide that currently use merit selection; the other is Lake County.

Most other counties elect their judges in partisan elections. But there are exceptions. Vanderburgh County utilizes nonpartisan elections. And to bring up the machinations by which Marion County judges are selected in this space at this time wouldn't do anyone any good.

HEA 1491 also would have created a sixth COA panel starting in 2011 at a price tag of $2 million; money no one surely wants to spend. Ultimately, the attempted override of the governor's veto failed.

No, words like "integrity" and "confidence" don't much come to mind when one thinks about the legislature. The word "cynical" certainly does.

Bill Jonas is a South Bend attorney and was the Indiana State Bar Association president who fought with other bar associations to turn back the measure last year. He appears to feel cynical about the legislature, too, according to what he told our reporter for yet another story on HEA 1491.

"I find it discouraging and more than a little cynical that this would surface at the end of the session when it could be hidden or lost in the shuffle of end-ofterm business," Jonas wrote to us in an e-mail.

Discouraged and cynical is no way for a citizen to feel about the people we elect to govern.

Opinions: Readers may offer opinions concerning Indiana Lawyer stories and other legal issues. Readers may respond immediately by viewing the “submissions” section on our website http://www.theindianalawyer.com. We reserve the right to edit letters for space requirements and to reproduce letters on Indiana Lawyer’s website and online databases. We do not publish anonymous letters. Direct letters to editor Rebecca Collier at rcollier@ibj.com or 41 E. Washington St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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