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Robin Babbitt mug Robin L. Babbitt
Indianapolis Bar Foundation
President

I freely admit this is the time of year that I question my family’s decision to establish our residence north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Going for weeks on end without sunshine is not good for one’s soul. In Indiana, March is the month that typically throws a couple of cruel jokes this way. About the time Hoosiers become convinced that we have turned the corner and Spring has really arrived, the weather gods typically throw in a last winter storm (or two).

When winter gets the best of me, I reflect back on my move to Indianapolis in 1977 and the beginning of my studies at the IU Indianapolis School of Law. I entered law school at a time when it was being portrayed in an unflattering light in books (Scott Turow’s – 1L), in movies (Paper Chase) and on TV. I probably was not alone in starting law school with the firm conviction that I would be lucky to graduate. Superimposing images of Professor Kingsfield with unknown classmates who would sabotage anyone standing in their way to improve their class standing was not comforting.

The good news is that my reality was nothing like the events portrayed in the movie and TV series. Professors like Dean Harvey, Bruce Townsend and Chuck Kelso – while legendary – were brilliant, compassionate and fair. It did not take me long to come to the inescapable conclusion that my colleagues (in the Class of 1980) would form a group of the finest people and most accomplished professionals I would come to know. I will point out only one of them (at the risk of his certain embarrassment) because I think he is an excellent combination of all of the qualities that made our class special.

Ross Rudolph, a well respected trial lawyer and mediator who has practiced in Evansville for the past 30+ years, quickly became a very close friend. In short order during the Fall of 1977, Ross displayed his true colors. He had diligently prepared a typed outline (at a time you had to use White-Out to make even a simple correction) that he updated daily based upon the assigned reading in Contracts I and that he supplemented with his handwritten class notes. When Prof. Kelso told us he would give us a midterm so that we would have an appreciation for what it would be like to take a law school final before the end of the first semester rolled around, Ross offered to give a couple of us a copy of his outline in order to assist with our exam preparation. Almost immediately, it seemed as if copies were being made for our entire Contracts class. In short, Ross was happy to lose his hard-earned competitive advantage in order to lend a helping hand to his classmates. He was (and is) the model of a person who does things for the greater good at the sacrifice of personal gain. He was (and is) the consummate “team player”. He wanted to do well, but not at anyone else’s expense. Scott Turow must not have had a classmate like Ross.

Over the course of my 30 years of practice, I have been constantly reminded that the ability to practice law before, with and even against principled people with common “Hoosier values” is an immeasurable blessing that makes suffering through Indiana winters bearable. I had similar thoughts as I sat on the podium in January to witness President Mike Hebenstreit’s installation. As his family looked on with pride, I recognized how fortunate our bar association is to be led by someone who (like my classmate Ross Rudolph) is equipped with the full complement of the most important skills that a Hoosier lawyer can possess. When the going gets tough, I simply reflect on how fortunate I was to land in such a welcoming place chocked full of people of great character.

Part of that package is the unselfish desire to help those most in need. We are blessed to participate in a noble profession that gives us the ability to provide for those who depend upon us. I ask each of you to tap into that sense of altruism by generously supporting the Indianapolis Bar Foundation. It is as simple as going to the Indianapolis Bar Foundation website (www.indybar.org/about/bar-foundation) to donate online or to call Megan Keever at the Bar Foundation office (269-2000) to tell her that you would like to make a pledge. Rest assured, the Foundation will put your generosity to good use.

Ain’t it great to live in Indiana? …•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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