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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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