By Tyler D. Helmond, Voyles Zahn & Paul
Professor of Law and Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and an LL.M from the Georgetown University School of Law. He is an expert on race, democracy, and Puerto Rico. He is Dr. Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, and he has been served with interrogatories.
Q: Much of your scholarship has focused on the Voting Rights Act. The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument later this month in Shelby County v. Holder, a case that challenges the constitutionality of the “preclearance” provision of the VRA. What will you be looking for in the argument?
A: I will be looking for a discussion of the original intent of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment over the scope of congressional powers. I will not be looking too hard, however. For some reason, originalists don’t spend a lot of time with the 14th Amendment. I’ll let you figure out why that is.
Q: Are you willing to make a prediction for how the case might come out?
A: Are you kidding? I love predictions! Like the Sebelius case, I just don’t think the Chief Justice wants the Court to strike down the Voting Rights Act under his watch. Imagine the headlines.
Q: There is a relatively new challenge to the procedure in which trial court judges are elected in Marion County. The plaintiff in Common Cause Indiana v. Indiana Secretary of State argues the unique system of primary election that ends up filling the entire bench with half Democratic nominees and half Republican nominees deprives Marion County citizens of the right to case a meaningful vote. What are your thoughts on how that questioned ought to be resolved?
A: Can you think of anything crazier than electing judges? Apparently, Marion County did. I am looking forward to reading how the Attorney General defends this process. It will be very challenging.
Q: The Maurer School of Law has lost three legendary faculty members recently: Patrick Baude, Dennis Long, and most recently, Leonard Fromm. What will be their legacies?
A: I don’t even know how you begin to replace them. They were remarkable teachers and mentors.
Q: You have three degrees from the University of Michigan and you teach at Indiana. Describe what you will be feeling on March 10th when the Hoosiers play the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in a game that could determine the Big Ten Title.
A: It was hard watching the first game, and it might be harder watching the finale. My youngest son couldn’t even watch the first one; he was very conflicted about it. I do think IU pulls it out and wins the Big Ten championship.
Q: President Obama recently remarked that if he had a son, he’d have to think long and hard before he would let him play football. With all of the challenges facing the modern law student – including rising tuition and diminishing job prospects – would you have any hesitation encouraging your children to go to law school?
A: On football, I agree with the president. But law school presents different challenges. If my children wanted to go to law school, I would ask them to be smart about it. Buying a legal education is not much different than buying anything else. Do your research and make smart decisions.
Q: Who has had the biggest influence on your writing? What advice would you give to law students and lawyers looking to improve their writing?
A: The biggest influence, believe it or not, was from a foreword I read a long time ago. The author didn’t quite say it like this, but the message was clear. Writing is a process and it “takes a village.” Don’t be afraid to take criticism, to ask for help, to edit your writing as many times as necessary. Great writing doesn’t just happen.
Q: What are the three best legal books of the past decade?
A: Oh man, that’s a tough question. If you are looking for fiction, anything by Grisham is quite entertaining. I loved Akhil Amar’s “America’s Constitution.” If I had to pick one book to recommend, it would have to be Fehrenbacher’s “The Dred Scott Case.”
Q: If you were starting a soccer team and you had to pick between Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, which would be the leader of Team LFR?
A: Will this be an MLS team? And will it be in Indianapolis? I am hoping this happens sometime soon. As for my pick, it’d have to be Ronaldo. If I picked anybody else, my boys would kill me.•