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Editorial: We the People team's civics study heartens many

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
April 14, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial


Like it or not, we live in a time where, for some people at least, it's become acceptable to speak about "reloading" when doing battle against political opponents and to mark their political districts with gun sites, and where members of a Midwestern church believe it's their duty to travel the nation and spew hate-laced messages in places where people are mourning tragedy.

For those of you looking for a speck of hope for civil discourse, we want to call your attention to a post on our First Impressions blog made April 7 by our reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

Rebecca writes about a group of about 30 high school students from Munster that spent some time at Indianapolis-based law firm Baker & Daniels preparing for their We the People competition in Washington, D.C., later this month. The program is coordinated by the Indiana Bar Foundation.

We the People is a semester-long civics course for high school students about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that ends with a mock congressional hearing where students present on various topics. Students work in teams to answer pre-determined questions before a panel of judges, who then ask follow-up questions to determine how much the students know about the subject at hand.

It's heartening to see busy lawyers take the time to volunteer to work with and encourage high school students. B&D partner Scott Chinn, himself no stranger to politics after working for former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson as corporation counsel, offered pointers for the students to keep in mind during their competition. He also encouraged the students to continue their work by voting, educating those around them about important issues while respecting the right to disagree, and to exercise their rights to remonstrate when they take issue with the direction their government is heading.

Our reporter was among those at the practice who were impressed with how intelligent and articulate the students were given the difficult subject matter some of them dealt with. One group compared the Magna Carta, the United States Bill of Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We the People appears to not be for the faint of heart.

That teenagers can take such a keen interest in these kinds of matters has to be a sign of hope for the future of civility and our ability as a nation to disagree and yet make decisions for the good of us all.

The Munster students' teacher, Michael Gordon, said it best of all: "When we take on the rigors of civic education with the vigor generally reserved for sport, and when the arena we play in is one of the top law firms in the state, there is something right in society."

We agree, and we'd like to see more of it. To learn more, visit http://firstimpressions.theindianalawyer.com/

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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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