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Local courts, educational program named after 3 Indiana jurists

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The practice of naming a building after someone is a longstanding tradition throughout the country, but one of the most common practices in those renamings is waiting until someone dies to dedicate that place.

Actions honoring three prominent Indiana jurists are bucking that trend, one involving a veteran trial judge retiring this month while the other two recognize sitting justices on the state’s highest court. The local courthouses in East Chicago and Gary are being renamed respectively in honor of retiring Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo and Justice Robert Rucker, while Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard has his name attached to a new law and social justice program in the Evansville high school he used to attend.
 

rucker Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker attended a dedication ceremony Dec. 3 where the Gary courthouse was named in his honor. The Lake County Commission voted to rename the courthouse earlier this year, marking his time serving and practicing in Gary before taking the appellate bench. (Photo submitted)

While these dedications may not symbolize any emerging trend, they do represent a rare opportunity to not only recognize distinct judicial careers but also inspire local citizens and even strengthen the legal community itself.

“Sometimes, you get a chance to give a person their flowers while they can still smell them,” said Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen Jr., who played an integral part in the dedications in that local jurisdiction. “People accomplish many things in their lives and careers and you should recognize and reward them before they’re gone. Otherwise, they’re not around to appreciate how the community feels about what the person has done.”

Lake County Commissioners approved both of the local courthouse name changes earlier this year, with the Justice Rucker dedication ceremony happening Dec. 3 and paving the way for the renaming to honor Judge Arredondo’s retirement at the end of 2010.

County officials voted in February to rename the Depression-built satellite county courthouse at 15 W. 4th Avenue in Gary after Justice Rucker. The judge grew up in that city and practiced there and in East Chicago after receiving his law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1976. He also served as a Lake County deputy prosecutor before being named to the Indiana Court of Appeals in 1991, and subsequently to the state Supreme Court in 1999.

That building houses two Superior Courts that handle a large portion of the county’s caseload, and it was where Justice Rucker spent some of his time practicing before becoming a judge. As the commissioner representing that district, Allen led that renaming effort. He denied that it was motivated by talk of county court closings or centralization and instead emphasized it was meant to honor the justice’s legal career and serve as an inspiration to others in the African-American community.

Justice Rucker said he’s humbled to have that honor from his hometown.

“As a young lawyer in private practice, I made my way in and out of that building on many occasions,” he said, noting that he’d argued before Superior Judge Gerald Svetanoff, the now-deceased Superior Judge James Danikolas, and even Judge James Moody before his appointment to the federal bench. “Although it has been many years since I have worked in Lake County, I have always considered it home. It is a special honor to be thought of so highly by the people in my home community. I am deeply touched by their kindness.”


rucker This bronze plaque dedicated to Justice Robert Rucker now hangs inside the local Lake County courthouse, located at 15 W. 4th Avenue in Gary. It honors the attorney and jurist from there, who practiced in that county and served as Lake County deputy prosecutor before taking the bench. (Photo submitted)

Now based in Indianapolis for his appellate duties, Justice Rucker attended the Dec. 3 ceremony that unveiled a $12,000 bronze 48” x 40” plaque detailing his background and local connection. That plaque sparked controversy locally about the cost and practice, with Commissioner Fran DuPey criticizing the public cost at a time when the county is being forced by reduced tax revenues to lay off county government employees. She also opposed the practice of naming public buildings after the living, something that carried over to the second Lake County renaming later in the year for the courthouse in East Chicago.

That time, on Nov. 17, two of the three county commissioners voted in favor of renaming the 3711 E. Main St. courthouse the Lorenzo Arredondo Justice Center after the retiring judge who has served the Circuit Court for 34 years. A similar plaque being paid for by personal and legal community donations will be placed in that court where the judge has presided. A time for the official dedication has not been decided.


arredondo-lorenzo-mug Arredondo

Responding to the dedication in his name, Judge Arredondo said he was humbled and honored by the measure and joked that it influenced his decision so far to not keep practicing once he leaves the bench.

“Having a building with your name on it kind of makes it difficult to just step in as a regular lawyer,” he said with a laugh, noting he is looking forward to enjoying his retirement.

As the first Latino judge to serve in Indiana and the longest-serving Latino trial judge in the nation, Judge Arredondo has been elected six times after serving on the now-abolished Lake County Court and as a prosecutor and assistant attorney for the county. The University of San Francisco School of Law graduate also founded the Hispanic National Bar Association and served in leadership roles on numerous committees through the years, including the Indiana Supreme Court’s Commission on Race & Gender Fairness.

Superior Judge Calvin Hawkins, who presides over the East Chicago court, led the renaming effort in Judge Arredondo’s honor, citing his retiring colleague’s influence in the community and legal profession. He said commissioners shattered the philosophy of not naming buildings after living people when it approved renaming the Gary courthouse in honor of Justice Rucker.

“This is about Lorenzo, but it’s more than just Lorenzo,” Judge Hawkins said, describing his colleague’s “rise from poverty” to become a significant jurist respected statewide and nationally. “It’s a statement we can give to young people and others that he’s a symbol of us, of what someone can become in this country.”

That’s what Allen says led the effort to honor both Judge Arredondo and Justice Rucker – to look at both jurists as contemporary role models in the community. Chief Justice Shepard expressed the same sentiment about his colleagues.

“It’s not completely unprecedented generally because you do have federal courts and some state juvenile facilities named after individuals, but it is (unprecedented) to have a courthouse named after a judge. I’m not sure it’s a trend because those are two unique careers being recognized and they are themselves worthy of that honor,” he said.

But the inspiration for others in the community, especially those who might see judges as role models paving the way in the legal community, is what Chief Justice Shepard hopes can be echoed in southern Indiana with a school program now bearing his name.
 

Randall Shepard Shepard

Announced late last year and beginning earlier this year, the Randall T. Shepard Academy for Law and Social Justice is offered to high school students served by the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Chief Justice Shepard grew up in the Evansville community and worked for the mayor’s office before serving on the Vanderburgh Superior Court until his Supreme Court appointment in 1985.

The two-year program offered to juniors and seniors is housed within a classroom at Harrison High School in Evansville, the chief justice’s alma mater. He is a member of the class of 1965. The program integrates English and social studies curriculums for selected juniors and seniors to prepare students for careers in law, social justice, and government policy. About two dozen students enrolled for the current semester. Second-year students will have the chance to participate in varied educational opportunities such as a law ambassador program in Washington, D.C., as well as law firm internships and visits to teen, criminal, civil, and appellate courts.

While it’s only a classroom and isn’t a courthouse or building bearing his name, the chief justice said that students receive a T-shirt that displays his name. He received one of those, too, and it’s one that his daughter wears often.

“At some level, you feel an unworthiness about this kind of recognition,” Chief Justice Shepard said. “It’s not an easy thing to describe your feelings about, but seeing high school students wearing T-shirts with your name on it… that’s the most striking thing.”

The chief justice isn’t focused on the name recognition, but rather the endeavor itself. He met with the superintendent for the first time while visiting Evansville early last year, and the two delved into how the legal profession needs a better feeder-system that starts before law school in undergraduate years and even in high school. They began discussing how a charter school might be created to tackle this, and the superintendent began exploring the idea within the school system. That led to this academy announcement in November 2009, which has gained support from the Evansville Bar Association and Foundation, along with others in the community. A $50,000 grant from Vectren helped establish the academy, according to school officials, and the chief justice donated his prize money from an American Judicature Society award this past summer to the program.

Chief Justice Shepard says he is helping and participating as much as he can without interfering with his “day job.” He visited early in the semester in August, when students had studied a particular case in advance and the class was built around that. The discussion touched on the judicial process and some aspects of that particular case, which the chief justice said was possible because the court had already decided to deny transfer. In November, he used Skype video-conferencing for the first time and communicated with students that way for an hour.

“The idea of creating something like this that’s new and unique and in my hometown, it’s frankly exciting to be a part of it,” he said. “To be able to help from time to time is quite a wonderful thing, notwithstanding the name of it. You do feel this great sense of gratitude for the generosity. I can only say that it’s a lovely and warm thing to have someone recognize you in that sort of way.”•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. 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)

  4. "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.

  5. 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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