IN Supreme Court justices dish on judicial pressure, favorite constitutional amendments in Q&A with students

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The Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis. (IL file photo)

Indiana Supreme Court justices talked about advice they would give to aspiring lawyers, their favorite constitutional amendments and what it was like to transition to the bench during a Q&A on Tuesday with college and high school students at the University of Indianapolis.

The justices were at the university to hear arguments in a case involving COVID-19-related closures at Ball State University.

Students from UIndy as well as some surrounding high schools were in attendance, and justices took questions for about 30 minutes after the arguments.

‘Trying to get the call right’

Asked what the most difficult part of the transition from being a lawyer to a judge was, Justice Christopher Goff talked about the pressure judges face knowing they could be the “end of the line” in a case.

“The hardest part is understanding the responsibility of trying to get the call right,” he said.

Attorneys can pick and choose which cases they want to take on, Goff said, but with some exceptions, that isn’t the case for judges.

“Feeling the responsibility of a decision that’s going to impact someone’s life is something that you feel,” he said. “It weighs on you.”

A place ‘for all of you’

Predictably, the most common questions from students dealt with how to one day become a lawyer or judge.

“If you are someone who is prone to deep thinking, that’s really about the only prerequisite you need to join the practice.” Justice Derek Molter said.

People who are more extroverted and thrive in front of a crowd often become trial lawyers, Molter said, adding that those who are more introverted and “bookish” can also find their place.

“There’s a place in the law and the practice for all of you,” he said.

‘Anybody know what the 19th Amendment did?’

Asked what their favorite constitutional amendment is, Goff quipped that his is “the one that you make my favorite as a really good lawyer.” He added that it’s important for students to pay closer attention to the Indiana Constitution.

“That’s the exciting thing about practicing law,” Goff said. “You get to think about these situations and figure out how a particular argument might suit the needs of your client.”

Chief Justice Loretta Rush, the only woman on the Supreme Court and the state’s first female chief justice, said her favorite amendment is the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Anybody know what the 19th Amendment did?” she asked to laughter and applause. “It gave women the right to vote.”

‘It definitely means a lot’

University of Indianapolis student Bryce Logan was the first in line to ask the justices a question. He said afterward that he wasn’t nervous, though, and even felt confident speaking to the “very important people.”

“It definitely means a lot,” Logan said of the justices being at the university. “Not even just bringing the notoriety to the University of Indianapolis, but just being able to give those students — both high school and collegiate students — that experience and that knowledge of what actually goes into these court cases.”

Logan is running for vice president of the university’s Student Government Association alongside Harley Avery, who is running for president.

Avery, who is also vice president of the Pre-Law Student Association, said having the justices there was especially good for the high schoolers in attendance.

“I know when I was in high school I never had an opportunity like this,” she said.

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