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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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