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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. 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.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  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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