Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Problems With Marion County's Small Claims Courts

This evening I attended the task force meeting in Pike Township reviewing the operation of Marion County Small Claims Courts.  I was able to speak briefly about problems with the courts and suggestions. Here is my followup letter to Judge Baker who chairs the task force:


Dear Judge Baker and Members of the Small Claims Court Task Force:

Thank you for appearing at the Pike Township Government Center and allowing members of the bar and the public to have input into possible changes with the Marion County Small Claims Court.  As one of the few attorneys who attended who is not a collection attorney, I think I can give a different picture of how things are going on.

I wanted to expand a bit upon the comments I made at the meeting.

FORUM SHOPPING:  Make no mistake, attorneys, in particular collection attorneys, are forum shopping in our small claims court.  There is an enormous incentive for them to keep big filers happy lest the township lose the income that comes to through the filing fees.  I remember when I ran in a vacancy election for Pike Twp Small Claims Court in the early 1990s, the Pike Township Trustee told me I should not rule against the big filers more than rarely lest they go somewhere else.

Decatur Township has often been complained of as being friendly territory for collection attorneys.  It doesn't help that they do not have a bus line down there.  That is the township I talked about the case my law firm had a defendant 10 years earlier had a medical bill of about $350 that went to collections. The medical provider received a judgment and at pro supp, the court ordered that the man’s be garnished to pay the $350 bill.  A decade later he was hauled into court on a pro supp proceeding on the same judgment.   Even though the debtor was represented by counsel and the collection attorney had no evidence that the garnishment didn’t fully satisfy the judgment, the court ruled against the client.  He paid it again.

I frankly did not understand their objections regarding venue and the Fair Debt Collection Act.  A collection attorney who spoke near the end clarified that this is apparently no longer an issue as it possibly was at one time in Cook County. Given modern technology, I do not buy that it is that difficult to tell which township a defendant lives in.  Regardless, you could just have a rule that the case gets automatically transferred if its filed in the wrong township, without penalty to the plaintiff.

The thrust of the testimony seemed to be that the small claims court defendant can ask for a change of venue to their home township.  My reading of Rule 12 is that a small claims court venue change is not mandatory…it’s discretionary with the court.  Some of the collection attorneys indicate that in all their years people rarely ask for a change of venue. That is because they do not know they can make that request.   The fact is these are very unsophisticated litigants.

SATISFACTIONS OF JUDGMENT:  What is noted above could have been avoided with the filing of a satisfaction of judgment.  I cannot emphasize enough the problem with courts not demanding that Plaintiffs file satisfactions of judgments on cases.  This month I had a case in nearby county where eight years earlier a landlord in a trailer park had sued my client for rent.  She agreed to give the landlord the trailer in full satisfaction of the judgment.   Because there was no satisfaction of judgment, a collection attorney eight years later filed another pro supp proceeding to collect on the original judgment. 

I can guess what was going on.  That collection attorney had gone through the court files looking for any cases where judgments were entered, and there was no satisfaction of judgment filed, and made a deal with the creditor that she would pursue it in return for a portion of what was collected.   Ironically that same day I was in a Marion County Small Claims Court and the judge there mentioned that a collection attorney had spent the day going through the files, undoubtedly looking for judgments not shown as satisfied.  Because a judgment can remain alive for at least ten years, it iseasy to pursue unsophisticated litigants who leave court thinking everything is resolved and will be taken care of, and then find out years later the final paperwork was never filed showing the judgment was satisfied. 

SMALL CLAIMS COURT JUDGMENT DOCKET AND NEED FOR UNIFIED COMPUTER SYSTEM:  One of the collection attorneys mentioned that the Marion County Clerk has a small claims court judgment docket.  I reviewed the rule and that it is indeed the case that the court is to send their judgments in to the Marion County Clerk. I have to wonder though if it is done on a regular basis – do they physically mail the judgments to the Clerk?  Nonetheless, that is just the judgments.  All filings in small claims court need to be viewable in the Marion County Clerk’s system.  Right now, if you want to know what’s filed on a case, you have to go out to the individual township or call. 

Thank you so much for your interest in working to make improvements to the Marion County Small Claims Court.  It is much appreciated.

Senate Passes Exceptions to Smoking Ban; Media Has Meltdown

The Indiana Senate yesterday added exceptions for bars, bingo halls, mental-health facilities and nursing homes to the bill imposing a statewide smoking ban in business establishments.

The media promptly had a meltdown.  Jim Shella of WISH-TV reported on his blog that the exceptions rendered the ban "meaningless."  Meanwhile the Star reported this morning that the Senate "guts" the smoking ban.

Seriously?  The bill would cover probably 95% of the businesses in Indiana, and because 5% are not included, the ban is worthless?   I don't get it.

Meanwhile the lobbyist for the American Cancer Society announced her group no longer supports the bill.  I just do not understand the legislative strategy of walking away from something you advocate because you're not getting 100% of what you want.  You get 95% of what you want, then come back next year and try to get the remaining 5%.  If ACS were truly interested in protecting people's health one would think they would gladly start at protecting people working in 95% of the business establishments in Indiana rather than opting for 0%.  Perhaps ACS prefers whining about how "backward" Hoosiers are than actually accomplishing anything.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

House Passes Bill Narrowing Public Intoxication Offense

For years Indiana's public intoxication charge has given law enforcement officials a blank check to the arrest anyone who had consumed alcohol and was in a public place, which is basically anyplace except a residence.  The law did not even require a blood alcohol content threshhold for public intoxication.  The testimony of a police officer that the was in a public place and appeared to be intoxicated was enough for a conviction.
Sen. Michael Young
To make matters worse, last year the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the public intoxication conviction of a passenger who did the responsible thing and used a sober designated driver.  Yep, you heard right, the courts have said you can still be arrested for public intoxication even if you use a designated driver.  In fact, you can be arrested for public intoxication if you call a cab to take you home from the bar. 

Sen. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) saw the problem with the law and he set out to fix it.  After an unsuccessful attempt last year, Sen. Young re-introduced a bill changing the public intoxication law to require some other bad conduct, besides simply having consumed alcohol.  The bill cleared the House today 95-0 and is on its way back to the Senate for final approval of the House changges.

The bill still gives law enforcement officials a lot of discretion.  Under the most recent version of the bill, a public intoxication charge requires proof that someone is intoxicated and is endanger someone's life, breaching the peace or threatening to, or harassing, annoying or alarming another person.  While that still gives law enforcement officials far too much discretion, it is an improvement over the current state of the law.

Sen. Young is also the author of the Barnes bill, legislation to restore the right of homeowners to resist unlawful police entries.  A few years ago, Sen. Young authored a bill tying traffic ticket fines to a person's driving history, stopping the practice of the Marion County Traffic Court regularly fining people $400 to $500 if they choose to exercise their right to a jury trial.

Sen. Young has proved himself a superb legislator, someone who is willing to take up causes that other legislators for years have ignored.   I don't know of any other legislator who is more deserving of re-election.

Whistleblowers' Attempt to Report Mismanagement at Department of Workforce Development Were Ignored; Episode Reminds Me of My DOI Whistleblowing Experience

As a former whistleblower at the Department of Insurance, the story from the whistleblowers at the Department of Workforce Development rings true.  Let me vent on that first before I get to the DWD story.  When I came forward at the DOI and wrote a memo about illegal activity at the Department in 2007, I was immediately told by DOI Commissioner James Atterholt to resign or be fired. My repeated pleas to the Governor Daniels' staff to at least investigate what I was trying to report was ignored.  I have resorted to the courts for protection and thus far I have been given none.
DWD Commissioner Mark Everson
None of this is apparent from the recent Court of Appeals decision on my case, which simply mentions that my memo to the Commissioner included a reorganization request and suggests that unprotected speech was why I was fired.  Of course, the DOI didn't come up with that theory until well into the litigation.  I had made the reorganization request at least two times before and I had told Atterholt I was going to make it again, this time in writing, and he never once suggested I would be fired for doing so.  

The Court of Appeals, in the process of improperly weighing evidence and guessing why I was forced to resign, also cited Atterholt's deposition testimony that I had sent out draft memos of title insurance bulletins without his knowledge or his approval.  But the evidence in fact showed Atterholt told me to draft the bulletins and circulate them to the industry.  There were emails confirming that Atterholt knew all about the draft bulletins and there were witnesses to meetings he attended where they were discussed.  What was new in the memo, and what got me canned, were violations of the law at DOI that I pointed out for the first time in the memo, including the misappropriation of a title insurance dedicated fund by a mid-level supervisor.

I'm done venting.  Here's the story from WISH-TV on the DWD whistleblowers:

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Inefficient. Poorly managed. Sloppy. These strong words are being used to describe the agency that pays Indiana's unemployed. Whistleblowers came exclusively to I-Team 8 to expose this story years in the making.
One of those whistleblowers is a former DWD employee who we'll call Ken. He knows the Department of Workforce Development well. He worked there as one of the people who decides whether you're eligible for unemployment. When asked whether the unemployed can be assured their cases will be decided fairly and accurately he answered, "I would not have faith, no. And I don't think a lot of people do."
Ken doesn't want us to identify him for fear of state retaliation. But another former DWD worker, Andrew Gray, shared his story openly. 
"It's a poorly run department," said Gray.
The state's unemployment rate skyrocketed from 4.7 percent in January of 2008 to a record high 10.9 percent just a year and a half later. As unemployment reached its peak, internal e-mails obtained by I-Team 8 detail how the Department of Workforce Development - drowning in claims, calls and appeals - may have resorted to questionable tactics that contributed to a $2 billion debt.
He points to an October 2009 e-mail from Ronnie Miller, then the Unemployment Insurance Director of Benefits and Appeals. In it, Miller told DWD employees to get the number of appeals to a "more manageable number" that week. He instructed them to "correct every case based on information provided by the claimant, fix what they say is wrong." He goes on to say, "I understand that this might create some error on these cases, and we are willing to accept that in exchange for getting the case count reduced." 
When asked whether he believed some unemployed claimants were paid who shouldn't have been and vice versa, Ken replied, "Oh, I can guarantee that, yeah."
I-Team 8 uncovered memos even more disturbing. An e-mail with DELETE DOCUMENT WORK in the subject line tells employees to delete documents older than 150 days. It went to DWD workers who deal with reports from the public about problems, errors and fraud in the system.  
"Remove from your inbox," the e-mail reads. "You do not need to do anything else with them." That means hundreds of people who wrote DWD about problems and waited for a response are likely still waiting. No one ever read your letter or e-mail. It was likely deleted.  
"He wanted the number down so he sent an e-mail out department-wide to delete 50 a day," said Gray.
We've tried multiple times to interview DWD Commissioner Mark Everson, finally taking our questions to a monthly meeting where he made a presentation. We were asked to hold our questions until the end of the meeting. But Everson left early, and spokesperson Valerie Krueger told us repeatedly to send an e-mail with our questions.
It's been more than a month since that meeting, and the department still has not granted our interview with Commissioner Everson. But the state did reply by e-mail to some of our questions saying that it did not require quotas. Current employees who spoke with I-Team 8 on the condition of anonymity say otherwise.
Our whistleblowers are not the only ones who expressed concerns. I-Team 8 obtained an e-mail from a DWD manager to a deputy commissioner. The e-mail lists what the manager called 'numerous major mistakes' found by employees, and the manager says those mistakes have led to money being paid improperly.
To see the rest of the story or watch the video, click here.
We need to provide better protection for whistleblowers and we need to insure the laws currently in place to protect them are applied by the Courts which have given short shrift to the protection of state employees free speech and whistleblowing rights.  The DWD whistleblowers only avenue was go to the media because nobody else would listen. Fortunately WISH-TV did.  Kudos to an excellennt story by Deanna Dewberry.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Task Force Studying Operations of Marion County Small Claims Court to Meet in Pike Township

The task force appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court to study changes to the Marion County township small claims courts is set to meet Wednesday, February 29th at Pike Township Small Claims Court, 5665 Lafayette Road at 6 pm.

I have written about the small claims courts on these pages before.  While there are a number of fine judges among the nine township small claims courts (which are not courts of record), the system has terrible incentives that favor plaintiffs' attorneys, in particular, collection attorneys.

The number one problem with the Marion County small claims courts is forum shopping.  With the exception of landlord-tenant cases, a plaintiff can file his or her case in any of the nine Marion County small claims courts  That practice allows plaintiffs to pick the small claims court that offers them the most advantages, not only in favorable rulings but also in assistance in prosecuting their cases.  Since the courts are financed entirely by filing fees, there is a built-in incentive to keep plaitniffs' attorneys happy so they will continue filing in the court instead of taking their business to another small claims courts.

The number one focus of the task force has to be stopping the practice of forum shopping needs to be stopped, primarily with the adoption of a rule that plaintiffs can only file collection cases in the township where the defendant lives, assuming the defendant is not a corporation or other business entity.    That would cure a lot of the problems with the small claims courts.

If you miss the Pike meeting, another one will be held at the Marion County Circuit Court on Wednesday March 7, 2012.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Would a Democratically-Controlled Senate Refuse to Seat Sen. Richard Lugar?

Imagine that it is January 2013.  The snow is falling in Washington, D.C.  President Barack Obama has won re-election and the Democrats have managed to dodge a bullet holding on to the Senate.  Although the Democrats had 23 of the 33 seats up for election (actually two are independents who caucus with the Democrats), the Democrats hold their losses to 3 and the Senate is 50-50 with Democrats in control thanks to Vice President Joe Biden, who also sits as President of the Senate.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana)

Into the chamber walks newly re-elected Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana who that fall was re-elected in a hard-fought contest against former Representative Joe Donnelly.   But Donnelly is already there and he is asking the Democratically-controlled Senate seat him instead of Lugar because the Senator failed to meet the Qualifications Clause in Article I, Section 3:
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Senate Democrats introduce a resolution to seat Rep. Donnelly instead of Lugar based on Section 5 of Article 1 of the Constitution.:
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
The Democrats' resolution discusses how Lugar has lived in Virginia since 1977.  More importantly it focuses on the fact that Lugar's only claim that he has a "home" in Indiana is a house at 3200 Highwoods Court in Indianapolis that he sold over 35 years earlier and where he admits he does not live.  The resolution discusses Lugar signing documents under oath that the 3200 Highwoods Court home is his "residence" when he votes and gets a driver's license.  The Senate resolution finishes with the conclusion that Lugar was not an "inhabitant" of Indiana on Election Day, November 6, 2012, and that Donnelly is the rightful winner of the election.  The resolution passes on a party line vote.

What is Lugar and the Republican's recourse if this happens?  Absolutely none.  There is no appeal from the Senate choosing to seat Donnelly instead of Lugar.  You can't take the issue to the courts. If Lugar stubbornly continues to claim 3200 Highwoods Court as his Indiana home up until the day of the general election, he puts the Republicans at risk of losing the Senate seat, even if he win the election.

Leading "Warmer" Involved in Academic Scandal; Incident Emphasizes the Danger of Mixing Science with Political Activism

Dr. Peter Gleick
One of the leading proponents of the man is causing dangerous global warming, er climate change, theory is Dr. Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, which describes itself this way on its website:

We envision a world where the basic needs of all people are met, where resources are managed sustainably and the natural world protected, and where conflicts over resources are resolved in a peaceful and democratic fashion. 
The Pacific Institute works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. We conduct interdisciplinary research and partner with stakeholders to produce solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity—in California, nationally, and internationally. 
It is clear from this description that the Pacific Institute has a political agenda.  Dr. Gleick is billed as an academic/scientist though:
Dr. Peter H. Gleick is co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California. His research and writing address the critical connections between water and human health, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and international conflicts over water resources.
Dr. Gleick is an internationally recognized water expert and was named a MacArthur Fellow in October 2003 for his work. In 2001, Gleick was dubbed a "visionary on the environment" by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 1999, Gleick was elected an Academician of the International Water Academy, in Oslo, Norway and in 2006, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
Gleick received a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He serves on the boards of numerous journals and organizations, and is the author of many scientific papers and seven books, including the biennial water report, The World's Water, and the new Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.
Back to Dr. Peter Gleick.  Here is apparently what happened.  Dr. Gleick called the Heartland Institute, which sponsors research on the other side of the global warming debate. Dr. Gleick pretended to be a Heartland board member who had a changed email and asked that the secretary forward certain documents to him.  In his confession admitting to what he did, Dr. Gleick said he was trying to confirm information he had received in a damning Heartland "strategy memo" mailed to him anonymously:
At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute's apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it. 
Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication. ...
Even journalists who support the anthropological warming theory do not buy Dr. Gleick's story.  According to a story written by the Atlantic's Megan McCurdle:

...While some journalists argued that all the checkable facts in the memos were backed up by the other documents that Heartland admitted to sending, to me, that merely suggested that it was written by someone who had those documents in their possession. 
But not a full understanding of those documents, because the memo made curious errors. Most notably, it claimed that the Koch foundation had given $200,000 in 2011, when the actual number was $25,000 ($200,000 is what Heartland's fundraising document indicates they hoped to get in 2012)--and since that money was donated for Health Care News, Heartland's health care newsletter, it's hard to see why it would show up in the climate strategy document, rather than, say, a document about their health care strategy. Given other anomalies surrounding the document, it seemed to me very likely that whoever had phished the authenticated board package had been disappointed by the lack of sizeable contributions from Big Oil and the Kochs, and so had written the memo to make sure that the documents told a nice, neat story about corruption and secrecy, rather than a boring, equivocal story about an issue advocacy organization with a spot of budget trouble. 
The very, very best thing that one can say about this is that this would be an absolutely astonishing lapse of judgement for someone in their mid-twenties, and is truly flabbergasting coming from a research institute head in his mid-fifties. Let's walk through the thought process:
You receive an anonymous memo in the mail purporting to be the secret climate strategy of the Heartland Institute. It is not printed on Heartland Institute letterhead, has no information identifying the supposed author or audience, contains weird locutions more typical of Heartland's opponents than of climate skeptics, and appears to have been written in a somewhat slapdash fashion. Do you:
A. Throw it in the trash
B. Reach out to like-minded friends to see how you might go about confirming its provenance
C. Tell no one, but risk a wire-fraud conviction, the destruction of your career, and a serious PR blow to your movement by impersonating a Heartland board member in order to obtain confidential documents.
As a journalist, I am in fact the semi-frequent recipient of documents promising amazing scoops, and depending on the circumstances, my answer is always "A" or "B", never "C".
To see the entire lengthy article in the Atlantic, click here.

Ms. McCurdle laments that the serious lapse in Dr. Gleick's judgment hurts the man is causing dangerous global warming cause.  But actually it highlights the problem.  You're either a scientist or you are an activist with a political agenda.  To be both creates too strong of a temptation for academic dishonesty.

Scientists need to approach their jobs devoid of any political agenda. Once they have a political agenda, scientists are tempted to cherry pick data to support that agenda, while ignoring other data that doesn't fit the conclusion the scientist wants to reach. That's not the way science is supposed to work. Yet that is exactly what has happened when it comes to the approach that has been taken when it comes to "global warming", which was conveniently renamed "climate change" when the warming data was called into question.   Of course, the climate has been changing for 4.5 billion years of this planet and will continue to do so.

We need honest scientists who employ the scientific method dispassionately. We do not need more scientists like Dr. Gleick who believe their job is to advance a political agenda.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Smaller is Not Better: The Quest to Update My Technology

There was a time when I was on the cutting edge of technology.  I had a home computer in 1987, when a very small percentage of Americans did.  When high speed Internet came to Indianapolis, I was one of the very first to sign up.   Yep, I was on the cutting edge.

Fast forward a couple decades later and I've fallen woefully behind in my technology.  While I have a big screen TV, it's a bulky rear projection model that weighs about 3000 pounds.  I have flip phone and don't text.  My laptop which is closing in on 10 years old, has a broken fan and is barely usable.

I've decided this is the year that I update my technology.  I plan to get a new phone and start texting.  I intend to get a new laptop computer and hopefully figure out wi-fi.

My problem though is everything technology-wise keeps getting smaller.  The other day I was using a friend's phone trying to read a story on the Internet.  The text was so small I couldn't make it out.  I don't want a phone with tiny keys if I'm going to text.  If I'm going to read anything on my phone, I want it large enough to read without straining my eyes.

They're also making laptops smaller and lighter.  I don't really understand why.  Small laptop computers means a smaller screen and a smaller keyboard.  My eyes and fingers prefer a bigger screen and bigger keyboard, respectively.  (Why are they making keyboards so small people have to return to hunting and pecking to type?)  And don't get me started with that eraser-type mouse on laptops.  I hate it.  As far as making the laptops lighter, that just means I'm more likely to end up leaving it someplace.  Laptops weren't that heavy to begin with.

I like the new technology.  I just don't think everything needs to get smaller.  Smaller is not necessarily better.

Hmmm...I'm starting to sound like the late Andy Rooney.  This is disturbing.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Newly Issued Opinion By Attorney General Zoeller Ducks the Issue of Lugar's Qualification to Be Elected Senator under the U.S. Constitution

Attorney General today issued an opinion dealing with Lugar's residency under Indiana law. The poorly reasoned Zoeller opinion (which merely updates the 1982 AG Linley Pearson opinion) is off-base to conclude Lugar can vote using someone else's home he sold 35 years ago, signing documents under oath that he lives there.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller

Nonetheless, Zoeller's opinion is noteworthy because it completely ducks the issue at hand - whether Lugar is an "inhabitant" of the State of Indiana as required by Article I of the U.S. Constitution in order to be elected in the Senate. Nowhere in the Zoeller opinion is the U.S. Constitution or the word "inhabitant" (or any variation thereof) even mentioned.  The challenges to be heard Friday are based on that provision of the U.S. Constitution.

There is a reason why Zoeller avoided any discussion of the inhabitancy requirement in the U.S. Constitution.  The Supreme Court (most recently) held in the 1995 case U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton that state law, which is the only authority Zoeller cites, cannot alter, change or amend the the qualifications provision of Article 1, which includes the requirement that a Senator be an "inhabitant" of the State he seeks to represent at the time of the election.  Zoeller's opinion is completely irrelevant to the issue.

Special Prosecutor Suggests He Will Try to Punish White for "Outburst" About Unequal Application of Voter Fraud Law

Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler
The Indianapolis Star reports that Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler plans to use Charlie White's post-trial comments talking about the unequal application of the voter fraud laws in Indiana to argue for a harsher sentence:
"... But Sigler said he and his team will talk about "the defendant's character and condition," including his comments during the Fox interview.
"Particularly in light of his post-conviction press interview," Sigler said, "we do not see much in the way of mitigation, and we will point that out to the court."
In that interview, White called the jury's verdict "a total miscarriage of justice" and "a perversion." He also accused other politicians, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, of voter fraud.
Brizzi said he's not surprised that prosecutors plan to use the interview against White. However, he said, he hopes people understand that White's comments were made out of "frustration" and "human emotion."
Dan Sigler should be ashamed of himself.  As reported by Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana, Sigler could also have faced the same voter fraud and perjury charges he leveled against White.  As far as other politicians, White is 100% correct that Even Bayh, Sen. Richard Lugar, Governor Mitch Daniels and their wives all vote using Indianapolis addresses when they all admittedly don't live in Marion County. With regard to Senator Lugar, it is particularly appalling as he doesn't even own the house he claims as his "residence," having sold it 35 years ago.

White's prosecution was a political persecution.   Both parties wanted him out of office, the Democrats because they want to claim it for the second place finisher, Vop Osili,  the Republicans because they didn't want to trouble themselves defending Charlie White and Republican Governor Daniels would be able to appoint his own person to the position.

White is exactly, 100% correct that the voter fraud/perjury laws were applied unequally.  They were out to get White, evidenced by the fact he's probably the only person in history ever prosecuted for perjury for the address he put on a marriage application.  Of course, Indiana law requires that the false statement be material for perjury, but that didn't stop Sigler from prosecuting the charge anyway.

At the end of the day, White lost because he didn't put on evidence at trial like he did at the Commission. The jury foreman strongly suggested that such evidence would have resulted in his acquittal.   Nonetheless, the point White made is exactly on point.  Not a single legal expert has come forward with a credible explanation justifying why White gets prosecuted and others doing exactly the same thing gets a pass.  Indiana is a state where criminal laws are applied to the politically unpopular, while popular politicians get a pass.  That's not aCharlie White's embarassment.  That's our embarassment as Hoosiers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Girl Scouts of America and Planned Parenthood

Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) continues to get scoured in the media over his criticism of Girl Scouts.  I have seen what he says in his letter and find it does go too far.  But some of the knee jerk responses to Morris' statement are equally over the top.  Many suggest he simply made everything up including that Girl Scouts had a relationship with Planned Parenthood.  That misinformation is even repeated in today's newspaper in which Mary Beth Schneider of the Star reports that that both Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood denies there is any relationship.   She should have said that local Girl Scout troops here deny any relationship with Indiana Planned Parenthood.

Morris is, in fact, actually quite correct that Girl Scouts of America has a working relationship with Planned Parenthood of America.  That is confirmed in this video clip in which Kathy Cloninger, talks about how GSA has a relationship with "Planned Parenthood associations across the country."

Here is another clip:

Rep. Morris' problem is that people simply look at their local Girl Scouts troop, sees nothing untoward going on and doing great work, and get angry believing Morris is simply making stuff up. What they don't realize is that the national organization, Girl Scouts of America, is doing some things at that level level that many parents with their daughters in Girl Scouts would not approve of, including partnering with the largest abortion provider in the country, Planned Parenthood.   Those things don't filter down to most local Girl Scout troops, especially here in Indiana.  That's a good thing.

Civil Discourse Now Tackles Effectiveness of Third Parties (Part II) With Libertarian and Socialist Guests

Guests were Libertarian Evan McMahan and Socialist Timothy Platt.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Romney Struggles in His Home State of Michigan; When Will the GOP Establishment Get the Message that Republicans Do Not Want Romney as Their Nominee?

Mitt Romney grew up in Michigan. During the 1960s, Romney's father, George, was a popular governor of the State.  Romney was expected to easily win the Michigan primary set for Tuesday 28th.  After all, Romney easily won the state in 2008.
Mitt Romney

Most recent polls though show Rick Santorum leading Romney in the Michigan.  The margin has narrowed the last few days.  Two polls have Santorum leading by 4 points, while one shows them tied and one has Romney with a 2 point lead.

Arizona's primary is the same day.   Romney was supposed to win Arizona, which has a sizable Mormon population, by double digits.  But even polls there show the margin tightening, including a recent one showing Romney leading Santorum by just 3 points.

No one expects Santorum to carry Arizona as Romney has led in virtually every poll in the state  But a slew of Michigan polls from Groundhog Day forward show Santorum with a decent lead in the state, which polls have raised expectations for the former Pennsylvania Senator. 

Meanwhile national polls show Santorum opening up a lead nationally.  The last six national polls have showed Santorum ahead of Romney, the last two reflecting a double digit lead.

Several of the stories on suggest the Republican establishment figures who have so fervently pushed Romney on the party's electorate are having second thoughts and a loss in Michigan would cause them to actively recruit another candidate.  It doesn't help that Romney is no longer doing well in head-to-head matchups with President Obama.  The Romney "electability" argument now seems nothing more than a mirage.  A brokered convention wouldn't necessarily be a horrible thing, especially if the Republicans end up with a stronger candidate than Mitt Romney.

My guess is that Romney will dump so much money into Michigan, and trash Santorum so badly with his Super PAC, that the ex-Massachusetts Governor will win the State.  But at what price will that victory come?  Republicans don't like Mitt Romney and don't want him as their nominee. Romney winning the Michigan Primary by tearing down his fellow Republican, won't play well with many GOP voters.

When will the GOP establishment get the message that Republicans don't want Mitt Romney as their nominee?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lawyers Troll Court Files Looking for Judgments Not Shown as Satisfied; Small Claims Court Litigants are Particularly Vulnerable to Questionable Practice

The Indianapolis Star has a lengthy story today talking about issues with Marion County's township small claims court system.  Most cases heard in those township courts, which aren't courts of record, are collection cases.

The Supreme Court has set a task force to study possible changes to the Marion County Small Claims Courts.  Public hearings on the matter will be at three locations:
Perry Twp - 2/22/12 (Wednesday) at 6 pm
Small Claims Court, 4925 Shelby Street, Indianapolis
Pike Twp - 2/29/12 (Wednesday) at 6pm
Small Claims Court, 5665 Lafayette Road, Suite B, Indianapolis
Marion Circuit Court - 3/7/12 (Wednesday) at 6pm
Marion Circuit Courtroom, 200 E. Washington Street #W122, Indianapolis
I write additionally though to express concern about a practice of collection attorneys that I'm starting to see.  Last Thursday morning I was in one of the donut counties on a collection matter that involved unpaid trailer park rent of approximately $5,000 that was litigated in 2003 and concluded with the trailer owner, my now client, agreeing to give her trailer to the park to cover the debt.  (The trailer was actually worth much more than the debt owed.)  The parties at the time didn't show the trailer was given in complete satisfaction of the debt in the court records, and as a result 8 years plus later the trailer owner is being dragged back into court on a proceeding supplemental to pay the debt.

When I received the case, I had the strong suspicion that the collection law firm had gone looking for cases, found a satisfaction of debt wasn't shown in this particular file, and offered to the trailer park owner to go after the debtor, likely on a contingency basis.

Later that same day, I was before one of Marion County Small Claims court judges who mentioned that an attorney had been spent all day combing through his files.  I have no doubt what the attorney was doing ...the attorney was looking for judgments on collection cases where the judgement did not show as satisfied in the court records.

Those experiences are consistent with another one I wrote about a couple years ago.  A client of mine several years earlier had a lawsuit filed against him by a medical provider for an unpaid medical bill of approximately $500.  The medical provider received a judgment from the Decatur Township Small Claims Court and his wages were garnished to pay it. The garnishment is reflected in the court's file.  However, nothing was filed in the Decatur Township Small Claims Court showing the judgment had been paid off through the garnishment.  Years later a collection attorney, who frequents the Decatur Township Court, is scouring the file, sees no satisfaction of the judgement, and asks that the court issue a new judgment.  You would think the burden would be on the medical provider to show the garnishment failed to cover the amount of the judgment.   But no, the medical provider's attorney got the judgment issued again as if no garnishment ever happened, but this time the judgment came with several years additional interest.

The fact is in small claims courts, debtors, often representing themselves, do not know the importance of filing paperwork with the court to show the judgment satisfied.  That is usually left up to the creditor's attorney who doesn't really have an incentive to do that.  The failure to file that satisfaction of judgment paperwork though leaves open the possibility that a collection law firm, years later, will look at that file and go after that debtor yet again.  Given the advantages collection attorneys have in Marion County Small Claims courts, one should not bet that that attempt won't be successful.  Small claims court judges need to insist that final paperwork is done in these collection cases and that satisfaction of judgments" are noted in the court files so that the debtors are not made the target of collection efforts years later by attorneys trolling for work.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Indiana Week in Review Continues Slide Toward Mediocrity; Panelists Ignore Legal Experts, Declare "No Legal Problem" With Lugar Claiming Residency at Home He Sold 35 Years Ago

Jim Shella
If one wants to know why Indiana Week in Review continues to slide toward mediocrity, I would encourage you to watch this weekend's program.  All the panelists, including Democrat Ann Delaney, declare there is "no legal problem" with Lugar not having a home in Indiana and signing documents under oath that he lives at a home he sold for 35 years ago.

Such an uncontroversial, group-think approach to the issue is not surprising since the panel is led by WISH-TV's Jim Shella who long ago ceased being a serious journalist.

Of course, legal experts disagree with the simplistic conclusion of the IWIR panel, which conclusion is based completely on a 1982 advisory opinion from then Attorney General Linley Pearson.  The United States Constitution requires that a person be an "inhabitant" of the state in order to serve as a U.S. Senator from that State.  A 1995 Supreme Court decision made clear that state law cannot change or supplement a congressional qualification contained in the U.S. Constitution. Thus the 1982 opinion by then Attorney General Linley Pearson citing state law is irrelevant.  That is backed up by John Hill, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Indiana University School of Law- Indianapolis, who is quoted today in a WIBC report:
Lugar's campaign says the issue of Lugar's residency has already been addressed following a 1982 opinion from then-Attorney General Linley Pearson which said that Lugar and other members of Congress are residents of Indiana even though they live in Washington D.C. year-round. John Hill, Professor of Constitutional Law at the I-U Robert H. McKinney School of Law, says the U.S. Constitution says Senators must "inhabit" the state they represent.
"What's interesting is unlike the voting requirements, who gets to vote in the state which are governed by state law, these standards are actually governed by federal law so the Attorney General's opinion is not relevant to this particular question," Hill says.
The United States Senate has the absolute power to determine the qualifications of its members.  Thus, the Senate, controlled narrowly by Democrats, can simply refuse to seat Lugar if he wins the election in November on the basis that Lugar, who admits he has no home in Indiana, is not an "inhabitat" of Indiana. There is nothing a court anywhere could do about that decision. But do you think you'd hear that incredibly important legal point discussed on IWIR?  Of course not.

Although the issue of Lugar's qualifications under the Constitution is a separate issue to voting, I would also point out, as I have before, there is absolutely no exception in Indiana's voter fraud and perjury laws that allows a person to sign documents under oath falsely stating he or she lives someplace the person does not actually live.  Again, that's not a point you will hear on IWIR, which only weeks earlier was bashing Charlie White based on the exact same allegation.

Yes, of course, there is a legal problem.  You can bet on Civil Discourse Now, a show hosted my myself and fellow attorney Mark Small, we would have had a real discussion of the issue, using legal experts who actually knew what they were talking about. It is a shame Indiana Week in Review takes a different approach to discussing the important issues of the day.

Law Professor Says 1982 AG Opinion is Irrelevant to Lugar Residency Challenge; Election Commission Agrees to Hear Issue (w/Update)

Sen. Richard Lugar
WIBC is reporting that an Indiana University Law School-Indianapolis (I refuse to call my alma mater the "McKinney Law School") professor agrees that the 1982 Attorney General Pearson opinion does not provide cover for Sen. Richard Lugar on the issue of whether he qualifies as an "inhabitant" of Indiana under the U.S. Constitution.
An I-U law professor says there may be some validity to Richard Mourdock's claim that Senator Dick Lugar doesn't live in Indiana. 
...  John Hill, Professor of Constitutional Law at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law, says the U.S. Constitution says Senators must "inhabit" the state they represent.
"What's interesting is unlike the voting requirements, who gets to vote in the state which are governed by state law, these standards are actually governed by federal law so the Attorney General's opinion is not relevant to this particular question," Hill says.
Hill says the Attorney General's opinion was in regard to Lugar's ability to vote in state elections despite not living in the state. He says the law is clear that Lugar can vote in state elections because he is on business for the state in Washington D.C.
I have previously written about these issues and will repeat the conclusions I had reached.  Professor Hill is exactly correct that the issue of whether Lugar is an "inhabitant" under the U.S. Constitution cannot be altered or supplemented by state law, a conclusion the Supreme Court reached most recently in the 1995 case U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton.   The 1982 Pearson opinion, which relied on state law, is irrelevant to whether Lugar meets the inhabitant qualificant under the Constitution.

As I've also discussed earlier, I don't agree at all with Professor Hill on the voting issue.  Indiana law certainly says you don't lose your residency because you are in D.C. on business for the state.  The reason for the law is obvious.   But Lugar did not lose his residency to vote because of his service in D.C. as a U.S. Senator  He lost it because he sold his home and did not claim any other residency in the state.  I am not aware of any exception in the law that allows you to vote, signing documents under oath, that you live in a place you sold 35 years ago.  [Update:  After forwarding my article on this subject to Prof. Hill, he wrote me an email back saying that he had not looked into the voting issue and he did not intend to render a legal opinion on that issue when he talked to the WIBC reporter.]

On a related note, WIBC is reporting that the Indiana Election Commission has agreed to hear the challenge to Lugar's residency next Friday.
The Indiana Election Commission will hear arguments next Friday on whether Lugar's home outside Washington means he's no longer an Indiana resident. Tea Party groups backing Lugar's rival, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, had been demanding a hearing, but it wasn't until late Thursday that anyone submitted formal paperwork.
Greg Wright
It is not clear why the Election Commission is saying it didn't have "formal paperwork" until yesterday, since certified fraud examiner Greg Wright filed a formal complaint with the Commission back on December 1.  The Election Commission acknowledged in writing it had received the Wright complaint.

While it seems doubtful to many observers that Lugar is an "inhabitant" of Indiana as required by the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution only requires that he be an inhabitant at the time of his election. Further, the U.S. Senate determines the qualifications of its own members.  Therefore, the Election Commission could well decide the challenge is premature or that the Commission does not have the jurisdiction to disqualify Lugar as that power belongs to the U.S. Senate.  Nonetheless, it makes one wonder why Lugar doesn't simply start using a relative's house as his residence, or get an apartment, rather than stoking the issue by continuing to use a home he sold 35 years ago as his claim he still lives in Indiana.

Indiana University Caught Lying About Economic Impact of Taxpayer Support of University

Indiana University President
Michael McRobbie
Reporters too often simply repeat economic impact information offered by various groups for public spending - you know those stories that say for every $1 of taxpayer money invested in their cause, you'll get X dollars back in return.  The numbers are always ridiculous.  If the return were so great, why would taxpayer money be spent anywhere else?  Well, Indiana University tried this stunt on Thursday and Indianapolis Star reporter Alex Campbell didn't take the bait.  Instead he started questioning the data and ended up with a terrific story.  The way IU attempts to justify the phony numbers is downright hilarious:
At first glance, the numbers look impressive.
Indiana University's yearly economic impact on the state: $4.9 billion. The impact of its health programs: $6.6 billion.
And, perhaps most jaw-dropping of all: For each dollar that state taxpayers invest in IU, they receive a return of $24.91.
As IU of presented these numbers at a news conference Thursday -- alongside the president of ficialsthe consulting firm that produced them -- they pointed to them as proof positive of the university's importance to the state.
"When you add it all up," said IU President Michael McRobbie, "the total economic impact of these two institutions really is nothing short of staggering."
Just one problem. Independent experts told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday that the numbers don't add up.
They're inflated, the experts say, and in the case of the $25 return-on-investment, they're misleading. 
John Siegfried, an economist at Vanderbilt University who has written several academic papers on the subject, called the number "ridiculous to the extent of being really embarrassing for an institution supposedly dedicated to seeking truth and knowledge."
"In fact it is so high," Siegfried said in an email to The Star, "that if it is true, Indiana should be investing in nothing except colleges and universities."
Siegfried is not alone in that assessment of the return-on-investment. "That's incredible," said Peter McHenry, an assistant professor of economics at the College of William and Mary. "In a literal sense."
The statistics come from a 59-page report titled "Economic Engine for Indiana: An Economic Impact Analysis." IU paid the economics consulting firm Tripp Umbach $75,000 for the report. 
Ultimately, the report is for public relations, McHenry said, "pitched at Indiana legislators and voters."
On that point, Paul Umbach, the co-founder and CEO of the firm, agrees. He said Tripp Umbach reports are not peer-reviewed and not meant to be published in academic journals. 
"They are public-relations documents," Umbach told The Star on Thursday evening, "and they're designed to be that way."
The IU report "exists as a communications tool" to relay the school's importance to the state, Umbach said. "It's not going to win a Nobel Prize." 
Umbach told reporters Thursday that return-on-investment was far from the only impressive measure in his report. 
Total impact, in particular, stood out for praise. Combined, IU's schools and health facilities account for $31.5 million in economic activity per day. "It's sort of like having the Super Bowl every day," Umbach said.   
At the news conference, Umbach told reporters that IU's economic impact was one of the most impressive he's seen. The only university he had seen with a higher return-on-investment number was Penn State.
McHenry does not dispute the fact that IU and its hospitals are important. But the return-on-investment number, in particular, doesn't pass the "sniff test."
"If we're making decisions based on that kind of number," McHenry said, "then we've misled the public and misused public funds."
It's interesting that IU officials thought it was alright to use a study with phony numbers because the misinformation was only being presented to public and decision-makers who decide how taxpayer dollars are to be spent. 

The entire lengthy article is worth a read.  In particular, the part of the article I left out explores why the IU methodology is flawed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Did Later Supreme Court Case Invalidate Attorney General Pearson's 1982 Opinion on Lugar's Residency?

The Associated Press has picked up on the issue of Lugar's use of a house he sold 35 years ago as his residence for qualifying to run for U.S. Senate from Indiana.  Here's the portion of that article outlining the defense the Lugar people are offering to the residency challenge:

Sen. Richard Lugar
There is no requirement that a person maintain a house, apartment, or any fixed physical location," said then-Attorney General Linley Pearson in a 1982 opinion provided to Lugar ahead of his 1982 race. Attorney General Greg Zoeller has supported Pearson's interpretation of state law.

Conservative activist Greg Wright filed a complaint with the Indiana Election Commission in December alleging voter fraud by Lugar and his wife Charlene. But the commission, which weighs whether or not candidates make it on the state ballot, has not scheduled a hearing on the complaint.

Daniels said he wouldn't force the election commission to hear the complaint.

"Both the [state] constitution and the statute are clear that (Lugar) is qualified as he's been for all his previous elections. We're going have a good, competitive election but he ought not try to end it on a technicality that really isn't legally valid," Daniels said.
The Pearson advisory opinion relies on the state constitution and state law to supplement the federal constitutional requirement that a candidate for Senator be an "inhabitant" of the state.  But the Pearson opinion was issued in 1982.  In 1995, the United States Supreme Court handed down U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, a case in which it was held that states, through their constitution or state law, cannot alter or amend the congressional qualifications provision in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. 

One could certainly argue that the Thornton case invalidates the Pearson opinion which says that Lugar could meet the federal constitutional requirement that one live in the state he/she represents as U.S. Senator by satisfying state law requirements for residency for that office.

PRESS RELEASE: Hoosiers for Conservative Senate to Bring Lugar Election Challenge to Governor Daniels


Monica Boyer (co-chair) or Greg Fettig (co-chair)
Hoosiers for Conservative Senate

Sen. Richard Lugar
Indianapolis, IN, February 14, 2012 – Hoosiers for Conservative Senate (HFCS) will bring a complaint to the office of Governor Mitch Daniels on Thursday February 16th about the residency of Indiana Senator Lugar. A press conference will be held in the North Atrium at 3:00pm. Following the press conference, the signatures will be walked over to the Governor’s office.

HFCS will deliver signed forms from each Congressional district requesting Governor Daniels to take action on the Formal Election complaint filed by Greg Wright, Certified Fraud Examiner, of Indianapolis pursuant to Indiana Code 3-6-4.1-12. This Indiana statute provides that citizens from each of Indiana's nine congressional districts may petition the Governor to call a meeting of the State Election Commission if the Commission refuses to meet to perform its duties. One of the statutory duties of the Commission is to investigate violations of the election code and refer potential violations to the prosecuting attorney.

Mr. Wright's complaint to the Indiana Election Commission is based on the fact that Senator Lugar and his wife have been voting absentee from 3200 Highwoods Court in Indianapolis despite the fact that they sold the property in 1977. This complaint was filed on November 30th. No action has been taken by the Election Commission. Monica Boyer, co-founder of Hoosiers for Conservative senate stated “We are deeply concerned that this complaint is not receiving its due process, and we are asking that the Governor hold the appropriate hearing concerning Senator Richard Lugar using a false address to register to vote. In the wake of the Charlie White case, we must ensure that Indiana does not maintain a double standard and that all public officials are held to the same standards.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels
“After viewing the FEC reports, Boyer added, “we are concerned with a possible conflict of interest as Chairman Daniel Dumezich has given thousands of dollars to Senator Lugar. We ask the Governor to listen to Hoosiers, and give this complaint a fair hearing.”

"Senator Lugar has for the past thirty five years used another individuals address as his own for voting purposes. I cannot see how this is in any way different from the felony charges that Secretary of State Charlie White was convicted of," said HFCS co-chair Greg Fettig. "When we allow our politicians to break the law, we become a nation of men and not laws. This jeopardizes the very freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. The same Constitution that the senator took an oath to uphold and defend".

Also, members of HFCS and concerned citizens will deliver a complaint to the Marion County Election Board and the Marion County Prosecutor's Office asking those agencies to investigate this matter as well. HFCS is an historic grassroots coalition of over 55 local tea party and patriot organizations across Indiana.

The primary goal of HFCS is to restore conservative representation to the U.S. Senate from Indiana.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Civil Discourse Now Discusses the Effectiveness of Third Parties w/Members of American Constitution, Socialist and Green Parites

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Santorum Takes Lead in Michigan

Mitt Romney grew up in Michigan where his father, George, served as governor during the 1960s.  As one of his "home states," Michigan was expected to break sharply for Romney who won the state in 2008 by a 39 to 30 margin over eventual nominee John McCain.

Two polls released the last two days though show former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with a lead.   Rasmussen has Santorum leading Romney 35-32 with Paul at 13 and Gingrich at 11.  Public Policy Polling has the race Santorum over Romney 39-24, with Paul at 12 at 11.

Two polls, including one by Rasmussen, conducted early this month had Romney with a 15 point lead.

The Michigan Primary takes place two weeks from today on February 28th.

Press Release: Mourdock Endorsed for Club for Growth

Mourdock Endorsed by Conservative Club for Growth

Group cites Lugar’s support for “pork-barrel” earmark spending

INDIANAPOLIS (February 14, 2012) – Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate Candidate in the 2012 Republican Primary, received the endorsement of the Club for Growth PAC over six-term incumbent Dick Lugar because of the Senator’s support for wasteful government spending.

“I am grateful for the endorsement of the Club for Growth in our efforts to retire Dick Lugar. Clearly, Senator Lugar has lost his way after being in Washington, D.C., for 36 years by supporting earmark ‘pork-barrel’ spending and massive government bailouts of the private sector at taxpayers’ expense,” stated Treasurer Mourdock.

The Club for Growth supports pro-growth policies, limited government, low taxes and economic freedom.

Club for Growth President and former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola expressed his dissatisfaction with Senator Lugar’s record and his support for Treasurer Mourdock in a press release early today:

“He [Lugar] voted for bigger government, more spending, and he even recently voted against a permanent ban on congressional pork. Richard Mourdock will vote to limit government, repeal ObamaCare, and will bring back the jobs lost to the Obama’s economic policies. The Club for Growth PAC proudly endorses Richard Mourdock for United States Senate.”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ron Paul's Campaign Claims to be Ahead in Delegate Count in Race for GOP Nomination

Even though Ron Paul is the only remaining GOP candidate to not have won a state, his people are claiming that they are actually ahead in the delegate count.  A most interesting interview by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

Romney Narrowly Wins Maine; Ron Paul Misses Victory by Less Than 200 Votes

Mitt Romney
This is what counts as a big victory for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney...a 194 vote victory in the Maine caucus over Ron Paul. 

Romney edged out Paul 39% to 36%, 2,190 votes to 1,996, with 5% of the vote stubbornly still out.  Rick Santorum finished third with 18% and Newt Gingrich finished last with 6%.

Delegates are allocated proportionally in Maine, including by congressional district.  Maine only has 14 delegates and it is expected that they will be split fairly evenly between Romney and Paul.  Santorum may also get a delegate or two.

In 2008, Romney won Maine with over 50% of the vote.  Romney's raw vote total dropped some 700 votes from 2008 to 2012, while Paul's more than doubled.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Local Attorney Paul Ogden to Seek Republican Nomination as Marion County Superior Court Judge

Dear Family, Friends, and Supporters,

Today I filed with the Secretary of State's Office to run for Marion County Superior Court judge in the May 2012 primary.

Growing up on a farm outside Madison, Indiana, I never thought my career path would lead to running for judge.  One of five sons of a factory worker/small time farmer and a secretary, I certainly learned the value of hard work and dedication.  There is nothing like stacking hay on a wagon in 95 degree heat to build a work ethic.

My brothers and I fortunately were the first generation in my family to have the chance to pursue education beyond high school.  For me that included a year at Hanover College followed by three at Ball State University.  At Ball State, I majored in political science and spent a semester interning in the Indiana State Senate.  After graduating from Ball State, I went to Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.  In law school, I served as editor of the school newspaper and president of the Student Bar Association.

After graduating from law school in 1987, I became a Deputy Attorney General, representing the then Indiana Department of Highways in eminent domain and employment matters.  The work experience though that most impacted me though was when I began clerking with Judge Buchanan on the Indiana Court of Appeals.  I spent 3 1/2 years at the Court doing legal research and writing draft legal opinions.  The experience of writing judicial opinions and having the late Judge Paul H. Buchanan as a mentor was a life-changing experience.

After leaving the Court, I worked on my own as well as at a couple law firms, including the minority- owned Roberts & Bishop, where I still have many friends today.  Along the way, I was general counsel for Midwest Title Insurance Company and led the development of a division regulating title insurance at the Indiana Department of Insurance.  I have seen about everything there is to see in my 24 years plus of practicing law.

I have also been very politically involved.  In 1986, I became a Republican precinct committeeman in Pike Township.  I have also served as a Vice Ward Chairman, a Ward Chairman, President of the Pike Township GOP Club and have worked on a number of campaigns as well as run for office myself.   I also have taught political science at both IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis.  When I haven't been busy doing that, I've also done some writing, winning the First Place Award for "Issues Writing" from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists several years ago for an article I wrote on grading ISTEP exams that appeared in the Indianapolis Monthly.

While I believe wholeheartedly in my Marion County Republican Party, I am disappointed that the power and authority of grass roots party workers has been virtually eliminated in favor of party bosses calling the shots.  When I first started in 1986, party workers still had real influence and elected officials knew they had to stay in touch with those workers to be endorsed by the party.  Slating conventions featured numerous races that had had multiple candidates eagerly seeking out the support of party workers. 

A couple weeks ago, the Marion County GOP had a slating convention at which 16 of 17 races were uncontested.  The only contested race was for Superior Court Judge.  In that race, several Republican judicial candidates had withdrawn before slating with the exception of Judge Carol Orbison.  Judge Orbison said during her speech to the convention that she was told a committee of power brokers had met before slating and decided she should not run for re-election.  She did not heed that warning and was not slated, though she has filed to run in the primary.  The fact is, party leaders now appoint the vast majority of those who vote at slating, people who just to show up and vote the way leadership wants them to vote.  Candidates know party bosses have almost complete control over the endorsement process.

But when it comes to slating of judges, there is an additional problem.  It is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct to pay slating fees, according to a 1992 opinion by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.   The party chairmen claim that slating fees, which total at least $12,000, are "not mandatory."  Yet since that 1992 opinion there has never been a judge slated who hasn't paid the fee.  Retired judges all say the slating fee is mandatory.  Nobody is being fooled with the claim that slating fees for judges are "voluntary."

I refuse to pay a slating fee in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  I also don't think party bosses, sitting in a room, should pick the Marion County judges.  Party workers and the party electorate should be the ones putting those judges on the court.

Although we have many fine judges in Marion County, the current system undermines the independence and impartiality of the judges.  As provided by the notes to the Code of Judicial Conduct, "judges and judicial candidates must, to the greatest extent possible, be free, and appear to be free, from political influence, and partisan interests."  When partisan issues come before the court, judges, faced with the possibility of not being slated next time, are under an enormous pressure to rule the "right way," i.e. the way the party bosses want them to rule.  No better example exists than the Peterson v. Borst case a few years ago in which every Republican judge voted for the plan passed by the Republican majority to redistrict the Indianapolis council and every Democratic judge voted against it.   (To clarify, there were judges who abstained from the vote.)

Judges should not be players beholden to one side or another.  They should be umpires with their decisions flowing from the constitutions, statutes and rules which judges are sworn to uphold.   Ours is not a system in which the laws should apply differently based on who is standing before the tribunal  Yet that sadly is too often the case.  I promise that as a judge everyone will stand before me with equal footing.  I do not care if one side is a big corporation represented by the most politically connected downtown law firm while the other side is a person too poor to afford an attorney.  The law is the law is the law.  If the law is with the pro se litigant, that person wins.  Period.

The question has been asked by many people what happens to my blog Ogden on Politics.  Having closely reviewed the Code of Judicial Conduct, I am aware that I am not permitted as a judicial candidate to make promises to support certain positions.  Also, I cannot as a candidate take positions on issues that may possibly be before me as judge. I can talk about judicial philosophy, ideas for operating the courts more efficiently, and others matters relating to judicial administration.  I can also talk about issues that are unlikely to come before me as a judge...but if they unexpectedly do, I need to, and will recuse, myself.

In short, I will continue my blog, but focus more on national issues and issues that are unlikely to be the sort that will land before the Marion County Superior Court.   The posts will be a bit rarer as I will be busy campaigning.

Thanks to all of you who have given me encouragement as I have written Ogden on Politics and who will give me encouragement as I move forward with this professional challenge.  I could not do it without you.


Paul K. Ogden
Candidate for Marion County Superior Court Judge

Paid for and authorized by the Ogden for Judge Committee, Adam Lenkowsky, Chairman and Treasurer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vote Lugar for Senator ... of Virginia

Is Lugar Claiming A False Residence on His Federal and State Tax Forms?

Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Richard Lugar lives full-time in Virginia and has no Indiana residence. Yet he obtained Indiana license plates on his car by filling out documents for the the Bureau of Motor Vehicles saying he lives at 3200 Highwoods Court, Indianapolis, a house he sold 35 years ago.  The BMV has tried to mail him correspondence at that address which is returned because, of course, Lugar doesn't actually live there.  Certified Fraud Examiner Greg Wright obtained all the information to confirm these facts.

So Lugar is willing to lie to the BMV saying he lives 3200 Highwoods Court residence. What other government agencies is he lying to?  How about the tax agencies?  Does Lugar pay Indiana income taxes?  If so, does he put down the 3200 Highwoods Court address?  Does he put down 3200 Highwoods Court on his Indiana tax form?  Does he put it on his federal tax form?  Does he not know those documents are signed under threat of perjury?

For the record, Virginia, where Lugar lives, has a top income tax rate of 5.75%.   Indiana has a flat income tax rate of 3.4%.  Not that that would be Lugar's motivation for reporting the 3200 Highwoods Court address on his tax returns.  That motivation appears to be nothing more than arrogance and a belief he is above the law everyone else has to follow.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fox News Reports Democrats Have Begun to Dig Into Expenses Associated with Lugar's Lack of Indiana Residence

Fox News reported on how Democrats have been digging into Sen. Richard Lugar's expense records.  It seems when you don't have a residence in the State, we taxpayers have to spend a lot of money on travel and putting the Senator up in hotel rooms:
Lugar Spokesman David Wilkie

..The Indiana Democratic party has combed through records going all the way back to Lugar's first year in the Senate, 1977.

The hundreds of pages of itemized travel expenses were passed along to Fox News. Among the findings offered by the party is that the six-term US Senator has spend almost $50,000 in travel expenses just visiting his home state.
The expenses are necessary, in part, because Lugar has no home in Indiana. The Indiana Senator lives in the Washington DC suburb of McLean, Virginia. So, virtually every time Lugar stays in Indiana there's an added cost."...
Another of the Indiana Democratic Party's findings puts a finer point on the issue. It says Lugar appears to have expensed 325 nights in Indiana over a 21-year period, from 1990 through 2011.
The suggestion is that Lugar's time in the state has been limited to less than a year over the course of two-plus decades. The Lugar campaign says that suggestion is completely false."(Senator Lugar) spends a quarter of the year, every year in the state," says campaign spokesman David Willkie.  Willkie notes from February 1st of 2011 and 2012, Lugar has spent 89-days in Indiana. And while Lugar is not "domiciled" in Indiana, he does own a farm in the state which he still manages....
The fact is we taxpayers put Sen. Lugar up in nice hotel rooms when he decides to come back to Indiana.   Willkie does not point to any other place Lugar stays while in Indiana.  Even Lugar has said he doesn't stay at the farm as it is "too rustic."  So Willkie's reference to that is nothing more than a disingenuous diversion.  If Lugar has spent more than 325 nights in Indiana over the last 21 years, Willkie he ought to be able to identify where the Senator was staying during that time.

It's shameful that we have a Senior Senator who "visits" Indiana instead of lives here.

Lugar Includes Phony Residence in Primary Filing; Senior Senator Exposes Republicans to Loss of the Seat Should He be Re-Elected

With all the fuss raised about Senator Richard Lugar voting using someone else's house as his Indiana "residence," a house he sold 35 year, one would think that smarter legal minds would have prevailed in his camp and the Senator would have identified property he or a family member actually own as his Indiana residence.  Apparently Lugar's arrogance though overrode that legal advice.  In filing for May's primary yesterday, Senator Lugar identified as his "complete residence address" 3200 Highwoods Court, Indianapolis, Indiana 46222, a house he sold 35 years ago and is currently occupied by the Hughes family.
Sen. Richard Lugar

In a CNN interview, Lugar indicated he "maintained" a home in Indianapolis for "political purposes." Really? Does Lugar contribute to the mortgage at 3200 Highwoods Court?  Does Lugar mow the grass?  Does Lugar take out the garbage?

Actually Lugar hasn't stepped in the house for some 30 plus years.   Yet he claims to "maintain" the house, signing documents under oath that he resides at that address, including absentee voter applications and other documents.  Former Secretary of State Charlie White gets seven felonies filed against him for doing one time what Lugar does as a matter of course every time he votes.  White is exactly correct.  The voter fraud statutes do not get applied to popular people like Lugar and Evan Bayh.  The Senators get a pass even though what they're doing by voting someplace where they clearly do not live, violates the same laws White was convicted of violating.  The application of our criminal laws should not depend on whether a person is liked or not.  But in this state shamefully it does.

In the form, Lugar declares that "I am a registered voter of Precinct 006 of Wayne (or of Ward 29 of the City or Town of Indianapolis), County of Marion, State of Indiana."  That of course is 3200 Highwoods Court.  Hopefully someone will challenge his and his wife's absentee ballot when they are received at that precinct in May.

Most importantly, Lugar has now opened up the Republican Party to a challenge that could cause the GOP to lose the seat. The Senate is exclusive determiner of the qualifications of its members.  If Lugar wins the primary and goes on to win the general election, it is very possible the Democrats, particularly if they still have a majority in the Senate, will challenge Lugar's qualifications to represent Indiana.  One of the qualifications in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution is that a Senator be a resident of the state he or she is going to represent.  By arrogantly declaring 3200 Highwoods Court as his residence on a declaration of candidacy, a residence he clearly does not live at, Lugar has shut the door on claiming another, more appropriate address in Indiana as his residence.

Lugar's filing shows that he clearly believes he is above the law that others are required to follow.  For that alone, he does not deserve to be re-elected.