Dreyer: A day in the life (and mind) of an Indiana trial court judge

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IJA-Dreyer-David(With apologies to James Joyce and others …)

Looking up she sees me and my tag I’m a judge she can see and I pass into the City County Building just fine as so many others pass into the metal detector machine to see if they will be passed out, or through, or on, as the case may be. So many people, people seeing me, seeing each other, prisoners, police, going, going, getting married, paying taxes, talking to themselves, talking to each other, looking up, looking down, I get on the elevator. Silence weighs it down from door open closed to door open closed and I get out walking walking as people looking at me are you the judge are you the judge. Enter hand raises to Brad and ChaRonda and Gelone and Pat and I am at the place where the sitting and the standing varies from moment minute hour to moment minute hour.

Wilderness and flowers spread before the vision in software sublime colors while little figures dot the sky like TO DO, Jones v Indpls, Recent Office, Unused, Odyssey, Dreyer Misc. Recycle Bin, Outlook, and sooooo many many others. Whatever is the hurry becomes the first urgency and time becomes the casualty as bailiff asks papers in hand, phone rings don’t know that number don’t answer, docket stands up people are waiting, the robe gets on the judge what is it about again? door opens All Rise sitting down Yes I remember this case.

Your Honor, before we begin, there are several motions we filed this morning All my reading and preparation are for what We object to ___fill in here___ calling the witness ____fill in here___ because ____fill in here____ patience patience step back look weigh if I’m relaxed they’ll be relaxed “Well only one person speaks at a time” (and right now that person is me) Lawyers looking looking at each other at me when someone else talks at me looking at papers at me and the room fills with purpose and resolve and presence the issues are important not me The time it takes is the time it takes justice is timeless.

Your Honor, can I be heard yes to be heard We believe that everyone’s best interests best interests yes are served by continuing no continuing or limiting the hearing why not just hear it all we’ll see in order to allow the parties to do more discovery and further discuss settlement. Talking and balancing and wilderness and flowers appear in software sublime colors right there on the bench She’s right to step back and consider the big picture as motions and orders click up before our very eyes. Counsel we’ll keep the trial date and reset this hearing makes sense Next case single mom without lawyer didn’t pay credit card set aside default Next case man in car accident suing insurance company needs time to get doctor Next case corporation seeking coverage for exposure thinks it’s all a matter of law Next case mom and dad cannot talk and child needs best interests best interests yes.

Lunch maybe I am a steward of the law facing the queues of motions, notices, enlargements, amendments, stipulations stipulations yes hoping for time to begin the research on the summary judgment and then the next summary judgment and under advisement. The time it takes is the time it takes. Bailiff asks papers in hand phone rings don’t know that number don’t answer, docket stands up people are waiting, the robe gets on the judge what is it about again? door opens All Rise sitting down Yes I remember this case.

Reading reading thinking thinking the way to weigh is the way to decide all cases are important all parties are important all issues are important I am the face of justice to them facts and law and law and facts reading reading the law says shall the facts say maybe Apply the law to the facts what’s a judge to do when the law does not answer so balance balance the way is to weigh.

Hallway seems strange as walking with no one around feeling about all that just happened around here. The neighbor spat the company duties the foreseeble risk the best interests the guarantee of process no matter what I will make sure and all because we all believe believe believe.

Judges make the difference.

Judge David J. Dreyer has been a judge for the Marion Superior Court since 1997. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Law School. He is a former board member of the Indiana Judges Association. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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