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Friday, July 30, 2010

Ind. Courts - Report on the final 3 interviews of Supreme Court semi-finalists

This is IU-Indy Law Prof. Joel Schumm's report on the final three of the nine interviews for the Supreme Court - check here for the photos and links for group 3.

Moberly, Robyn L. - Judge, Marion Superior Court, Civil Division 5

In explaining her biggest accomplishment, Judge Moberly noted that she has had a privilege (and is proud of) her work as a trial judge. She focused on her “energy, initiative, and creativity” in the family court project. This allows a trial judge to “pull together as many cases as possible” involving a family into one court. It has expanded to include service referral staff that can help provide support to the family on issues like substance abuse. Mediation is also provided with a subsidy from the court. The program now has three staff and costs the taxpayers only $31,000. The project brings “compassionate justice” to the community.

Judge Moberly mentioned two “intractable challenges.” First, she focused on the concerns with self-represented litigants, the number of which has skyrocketed in recent years. She complimented the Court’s pro bono efforts and suggested the Supreme Court train public librarians to provide additional help. She cited the Court’s “teacher education” program, which trains teachers about the judicial branch, as a model that could be emulated. Second, Judge Moberly mentioned the change that is coming to the court system, citing the “New Way Forward” report prepared last year. She noted Marion County has been through some of the issues (like unification of courts), which are now arising on the state level. Centralizing efforts like human resources and purchasing have saved money and resulted in greater efficiency.

In response to Mr. Feighner’s question about the work Judge Moberly has done for the Court, she noted she had been a hearing officer in disciplinary cases and served on the domestic relations committee, which revamped the child support guidelines.

Mr. Trimble asked how (Justice) Moberly would resolve a conflict in Court of Appeals’ decisions. As a starting point she would look at the underlying doctrinal basis of each opinion and see if anything has changed. She would consider whether one approach has proven more or less workable, and consider such things as how one approach might affect commerce.

Mr. McCashland asked why Judge Moberly would want to leave all the wonderful work she has been doing with families by joining the Supreme Court. She noted there is “another chapter” in her life, which she hoped would be as part of the Court. She reiterated her concern for “compassionate justice” and noted it could continue to be fulfilled on the Court.

Judge Moberly provided clear and thoughtful responses to the questions. This was another strong interview for her.

Nation, Steven R. - Judge, Hamilton Superior Court 1

Judge Nation’s biggest accomplishment or “what he would want to be remembered for” is how he treated people who came into his court. He lets lawyers and litigants tell their story and noted his court sometimes runs late (one time 11:00 p.m. in a divorce case). In criminal cases, he always begins by asking the defendant their name and then refers to them as “sir” or “ma’am,” which is a “small thing” but shows respect.

Judge Nation said he renders decisions with a goal of being consistent. He noted one lawyer told him the lawyer didn’t care if the judge was right or wrong but wanted him to be consistent. Attorneys need to be able to advise clients, and consistency is essential to that—consistency within each case and consistency among the same type of cases heard in that court.

Judge Nation mentioned his work as the special judge in Norman Timberlake v. State, a death penalty case in which the defendant had killed a police officer. In response to a request from the defendant’s mother, Judge Nation allowed the mother to talk with the defendant.

Judge Nation spent 15 minutes (half of his time) on the first question, then he turned to the second (possible improvements to the judiciary). Judge Nation emphasized his work in the youth program in Hamilton County, which brings together a wide range of people and services to meet the needs of children. The major components are the “mentoring” and “tutoring” program to reach at-risk children before they get into trouble. The community has volunteered services, and the program costs no taxpayer money.

As to possible improvements, Judge Nation suggested the Supreme Court could ask trial judges for their interest in doing complex cases, and provide senior judges to handle some the remaining docket in those courts. He also suggested an expansion of interlocutory appeals. He noted a complex case where he certified an issue for interlocutory appeal but the Court of Appeals refused to hear the case. A two and a half week trial was then required. Judge Nation also recounted the days of indeterminate sentences and suggested inmates might be offered an opportunity to opt into

At 2:17 Judge Nation was still talking—without an opportunity for the commission to pose even ONE (yes that is intentionally in CAPS) question. When he stopped, Chief Justice Shepard remarked it was a “very impressive set of answers.” Mr. Feighner asked a softball question about whether the judge was up to serving on the Supreme Court. Time was then up. Mr. Gavin did not ask, as he had asked Judge Emkes, about the high reversal rate.

The interview was something of a flashback to Judge Brown’s “monologue,” although hers was much shorter and more focused. And Judge Nation was not reading.

Drew, Kiply S. - Associate General Counsel, Indiana University

Ms. Drew remarked her biggest accomplishment is not a single case but the opportunity to provide high quality legal advice to Indiana University for sixteen years. She is glad she has not had to be a specialist but has been, among other things, a real estate lawyer, a constitutional lawyer, and employment lawyer—and Chief Justice chimed in, referencing her first interview—a “mattress lawyer.” She has to “get the answers right” day after day for a wide range of people.

On the issue of improvements, Ms. Drew noted she had reviewed the “New Way Forward” (white paper) report. She supports its call for more (and more specialized) judicial education. She also emphasized the importance of “outreach opportunities” for the Court, such as the “Courts in the Classroom” and “Summer in the City” programs. She also expressed her support for the family court initiative.

In response to Mr. Trimble’s question about confronting issues of first impression, Ms. Drew said judges should look to other states who have addressed the issue and older cases of the Court for guidance.

Ms. Keck asked to what extent a judge should consider “political/PR” considerations in making a decision. She responded that politics cannot control a decision but the court should consider the possible ripple effects of a decision. She noted judges will sometimes need to “take heat” for some decisions but it is the “right thing” to do.

Mr. McCashland asked Ms. Drew to explain the comment on her application that the Court should be somewhat “cloistered.” She noted, from her days as a clerk, that it is important with whom someone goes to lunch and what is said. Justices may have to change the way they “think about their social life” to be sure they avoid any appearance of impropriety.

In response to a question from Mr. McDonald, Ms. Drew said she did not see a conflict if she were served as a Supreme Court justice while her husband is a clerk at the Court of Appeals. (Note: Bob Drew is a long-time senior clerk to Chief Judge Baker.) She explained, “Work is work; home is home.” Ms. Drew and her husband do not discuss those issues at home. When Mr. McDonald followed up that she could be asked to overrule something her husband wrote, she responded (to laughter), “I do that at home all the time.”

Ms. Drew described her approach to free speech as the same inside and outside her home (with her children): “everybody gets to say what they want” as long as “nobody touches anyone else.”

I did not know anything about Ms. Drew before this process. I was impressed with her application and first interview and continued to be impressed today. She gave clear, thoughtful, and sometimes amusing responses. I wish she had been asked how she would approach oral argument, but I bet she would bring those same refreshing qualities.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 30, 2010 03:14 PM
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Ct