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Semifinalists discuss important qualities of a justice

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The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission Wednesday interviewed 10 semifinalists to fill the vacancy on the Indiana Supreme Court created by the retirement of Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. Commission chair and Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson opened the interviews by asking each candidate what factors he or she believed the commission should be looking for in a justice.  Below are the first six interviews. The interviews are scheduled to wrap up around 4 p.m.

Delaware Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees said she had worked with eight different judges, and her experience lent itself to the work of the state high court. “One of most important factors is someone who's open-minded and willing to work with others” and doesn't come to the court with an agenda, she said.

She said independence and a willingness to admit you’re wrong also are important, as well as having someone who’s independent but collegial.  

Commission member Jim McDonald commended Vorhees' “stellar career” but asked why Vorhees, as an elected Democrat, would expect Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels to break tradition and be the first governor to appoint a judge of another party.

“I firmly believe the people of Indiana in the end don't care whether the justice is a Democrat or a Republican,” but instead would expect the justice to be the most qualified, she said.

Vorhees, when asked about a court decision with which she disagreed, cited the Barnes v. State decision, which she believed overreached.

Asked about the importance of diversity, Vorhees said the commission should consider various forms of diversity, including geographic and practice diversity. But she also said gender diversity was important.

“I never had anybody give me something because I'm a woman,” she said. “I think my application is strong and I think it stands on its own.”

Asked whether the end result or law was most important, Vorhees said the law, and cited an example in which a high school student with no criminal record was involved in an armed robbery with other young people and waived into adult court. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years executed at the Department of Correction. “I have absolutely no discretion; my hands are tied,” she said. Even though the penalty didn't seem just, “You don't have any discretion to disregard the law.”

Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford said he believed four things were most important in a Supreme Court justice: a broad legal background; superior administrative skills; the ability to make fair and wise decisions; and an exemplary temperament and collegiality skills.

“You need to have patience and respect for others' individual views,” Bradford said.

Bradford said he would bring to the court a breadth of experience in private practice, and as a deputy prosecutor, public defender, trial and appeals court judge. “The largest and most complex cases this state has to offer were the kind of cases I handled,” he said, noting cases involving the state's school funding formula, jail overcrowding and juvenile justice reform.

“I don't think there's any better preparation for being a Supreme Court justice,” Bradford said of his tenure on the COA.

Dickson noted Bradford's prolific work in the court, taking part in more than 2,300 decisions during his tenure, but mentioned that the work of the Supreme Court entailed more joint work among the justices than Bradford might have been accustomed to. Bradford said he would be willing to be where he needed to in order to serve the court and the state.

Commission member William Winingham noted that Bradford's energy and intensity sometimes could come across as less than congenial, and asked Bradford to provide an example of a time when he had been “warm and fuzzy.” Bradford said he thought people who watched oral arguments at the Court of Appeals would see that side.

“People who know me know I'm one of the most approachable judges,” he said. “It may feel intimidating, but it's never meant like that.”

On diversity, Bradford said his background was an example of diversity that should be considered. While acknowledging the importance of gender diversity, he said the quality of opinions was more important than what people looked like. “God made me who I am; I do not question his plan,” he said.

Bradford called the Indiana Supreme Court the gold standard for the nation and said he'd be humbled to apply his energy to the bench.

Indiana University Health general counsel Erin Reilly Lewis said personality was one of the most important qualities in a Supreme Court justice. “When you have a team of five sitting around this very table, it does take personality,” she said. “Someone with intelligence who's able to be a consensus builder.”

At 38, Lewis is the youngest of the 10 semifinalists, and Dickson asked whether she saw her age as a liability or an asset. “I think those concerned about my youth can be quite assured I will soon grow out of it,” she said. “I think the fact that I have done a varied amount of practice in my 13 years helps,” she said. She also noted that former Chief Justice Randall Shepard was about her age when he was appointed to the bench, and her selection would allow her to dedicate many years to public service.

Commission members also asked about Lewis' lack of trial experience and how she would get around that. She said she would rely on the experience of fellow justices. “I think I look at the issues carefully and look at the parameters of what you are reviewing as an appellate court judge.” She said she has the skills of a trial lawyer and can think quickly on her feet. “I don't think I'm hindered by the fact that I haven't had a jury trial,” she said.

Lewis worked in private civil practice with the court's most recent appointee, Justice Mark Massa. Asked about someone who she looked up to, she mentioned Susan Brooks, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. Lewis worked in that office for five years.

Lewis said justices should not legislate from the bench. When asked about a state Supreme Court ruling with which she disagreed, she cited the case involving  Brenda Moore, an intoxicated passenger in a car who had asked someone else to drive her home and was found guilty of public intoxication. She said Justice Robert Rucker wrote a dissent in that case that spoke to her about the possible implications were for people who had made the right decision but still faced punishment.

Geoffrey Slaughter, a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, said legal ability, collegiality, civility and respect for the court's institutional role were important qualities for a justice.

“It's tremendously important that everyone get along well,” Slaughter said. “It's important the members of the court respect and appreciate each other's company.”

Slaughter said the Indiana Supreme Court has a distinguished reputation nationally that grows from the court carrying out its mission of interpreting law as it was written and meant to be interpreted. “Reputations are precious and they can be fleeting,” he said.

Commission members raised Slaughter's lack of trial experience and he said his experience in a number of civil and regulatory matters in federal and state courts as well as the Indiana attorney general's office were valuable. He paraphrased Sullivan's sentiment that if the court got something wrong, he slept well at night knowing the General Assembly was there to correct a matter.

Asked about an area the court could improve, Slaughter suggested the possibility of hiring professional managers to oversee some of the court's many administrative functions.

Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull said the commission should consider a candidate's prior experience, background, talent, and ability to follow precedent. She believed prior judicial experience was important.

“The big elephant in the room you've all been talking about is diversity,” Gull said. And while gender and racial diversity are important considerations, she said, “I don't think those are the be-all and end-all of what you should be looking for.”

Dickson noted that nearly all of Gull's experience was in criminal matters, but Gull noted that she also brought a deep pool of administrative experience. She said she thought her criminal law experience would complement the current justices who have an array of civil, juvenile and other practice experience.

Gull stressed her experience with problem-solving courts and said drug court and re-entry court, among others, save time and money and produce better outcomes for some offenders. She said every county should make such services available, but funding and resources were an issue.

Asked whether the state and federal constitutions were organic, living, breathing documents or matters of strict interpretation, Gull said, “I think there is room for both. It depends on the specific issue you will be wrestling with,” and whether the framers faced those issues in their day.

“It's absolutely imperative that if precedent is there, it's incumbent on the Supreme Court to uphold that percent,” she said. But where matters such as technology are concerned, justices need to evolve and change with the times.

Benesch partner Andrielle Metzel said she had reduced the most important considerations in a Supreme Court justice to four “C's”: competency, character, commitment and collegiality.

A justice should have the competency to carry out administrative functions as well as interpret the law. “This is not all about cases, though that is a significant responsibility.”

Metzel said that through her work as a member of the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, she's had the opportunity to address issues of character, which she said is “always on the forefront of my mind. ... It's very important for us to uphold that integrity.” She mentioned a comment at a dinner party in which a friend recalled being on a beach 20 years ago when Metzel declined to have pictures or video taken of her because she hoped to be a judge one day.

Justices can be role models for judges and attorneys, Metzel said, by enhancing civility inside the courtroom and out. Providing guidance on use of social media, for instance, and writing dissents that don't contain scathing critiques of fellow justices can provide examples. “We see that it has a positive effect.”

In interpreting constitutional matters, Metzel said “my judicial philosophy is more conservative than not,” and “adhering to the law and the Constitution as it is written is first and foremost to me. It's not within the scope of the judiciary to change the way the Constitution operates even though times have changed.”

Regarding diversity, Metzel said the term has many meanings including professional experience. She said she didn't believe that race or gender diversity was a core value that should be considered in the commission's deliberations for a justice.

Metzel also compared the challenges the court faces today to those from the early 1990s. She found in a review of the State of the Judiciary from 1991 that said resources were tested by a recession and the technology on the march was that of fax machines. “Today we're talking about Odyssey and using electronic documentation in court. ... I see this as an evolving process.”

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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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