Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Barnes and Thornburg Seeks to Gain More Influence as Partner Opposes Small Firm Practictioner for Seat on Judicial Qualifications Commission

A battle between two attorneys for a seat on the Judicial Qualifications Commission to replace Indianapolis attorney William Winningham is sparking interest among attorneys in the Second District which is made up of Adams, Blackford, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Delaware, Grant, Hamilton, Howard, Huntington, Jay, Madison, Marion, Miami, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Wabash, Wells and White counties.
Lee Christie

The JQC is the nominating body for appellate judges in Indiana, the organization that screens nominees and proposes a list of three finalists to the Governor for selection.  It also handles discipline of judges.  As a result, the JQC plays a critical role in the Indiana legal system.

Lee Christie, a partner with Cline Farrell Christie & Lee, has put his name into the ring.  According to his bio submitted with the ballot:
"Christie received his bachelor's degree from Indiana University, and earned his law degree from Indiana University School of Law  - Indianapolis.    A frequent lecturer at continuing legal education seminars, Mr. Christie has presented on the topics of punitive damages, tort law, alternative dispute resolution, civil arbitration, expert witness, trucking litigation, and professionalism and civility in the court."
Christie faces off against Jan Carroll, a partner with Barnes & Thornburg.  According to her biographical information:
Jan Carroll
"[Carroll's] practice concentrates on products liability, professional liability, real estate and land use, and commercial disputes.  [She] earned her bacherlor's degree from Southern Methodist University and received her law degree, with honros, from Indiana Universigty - Indianapolis Law School, where she served as a note and deevelopment editor of the Indiana Law Reiew while also working full-time as the Statehouse correspondent for the Associated Press."
Carroll is also married to Judge John Tinder who sits on the 7th Circuit.

A recent mailing by Carroll identifies many of her supporters. It reads like a Who's Who list of partners from big, politically connected law firms.    Here is a partial list:

Brian L. Burdick, Barnes & Thornburg
Debora J. Daniels, Krieg Devault
Robert T Grand, Barnes & Thornburg
John R. Hammond, Ice Miller
David K. Herzog, Faegre Baker Daniels
Lacy M. Johnson, Ice Miller
Larry A. Mackey, Barnes & Thornburg
John R. Maley, Barnes & Thornburg
Leah S. Mannweiler, Krieg Devault
Jimmie McMillian, Barnes & Thornburg
D. William Moreau, Barnes & Thornburg
Timothy J. O'Hara, Bose McKinney & Evans
Linda L. Pence, Pence Hensel
Myra C. Selby, Ice Miller
Steven C. Shockley, Taft Stetinius & Hollister
Geoffrey Slaughter, Taft Stetinius & Hollister
Norman G. Tabler, Jr., Faegre Baker Daniels
David O. Tittle, Bingham Greenbaum Doll
James H. Voyles Jr., Voyles Zahn & Paul
Sally F. Zweig, Katz & Korin

Including this list is a strategic mistake on Carroll's part.  The list isn't going to get her any more votes from the big law firms in Indianapolis.  She is going to get plenty of those.  But the list is going to cause any attorney outside the big firms to think twice before casting a vote for her given the people she displays as her supporters.  If I were Christie, I'd send Carroll's list of supporters out to every medium and small firm attorney and sole practitioner in the Second District and ask for their support against big firm domination of the judicial selection process.

I met Mr. Christie during a personal injury mediation case I had with him a few years ago.  He did a terrific job.  He has an excellent temperament.  I would have no hesitation voting for him.

This election though comes down to whether you believe that the big, politically-connected law firms, particularly the most politically-connected law firm in the State of Indiana, Barnes & Thornburg, need yet more representation on key judicial commissions.  Barnes & Thornburg already has a partner, Anthony Prather, on the Disciplinary Commission. The law firm has been accused of exerting undue influence over the actions of the Commission.  In an expose I wrote in January of 2011, I revealed that over a three year period, 99% of the published disciplinary cases (397 out of 400) involved discipline of small firm attorneys or sole practitioners.  No disciplinary actions were taken during that time against attorneys from Barnes & Thornburg, the largest law firm in the state.  The Disciplinary Commission Chief during that time was Donald Lundberg, who shortly thereafter left to become, you guessed it, a Barnes & Thornburg partner.

I have had experiences with both the Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Disciplinary Commission. There is no comparison.  The JQC appears to enforce the disciplinary rules for judges in a fair and even-handed way, without any regard to political clout. The Disciplinary Commission is exactly the opposite when it comes to enforcement of disciplinary rules for attorneys. The last thing we need is the JQC operating more like the DC.

Attorneys, if you think Barnes & Thornburg needs more influence in the legal profession and the selection and discipline of judges, then by all means vote for Jan Carroll.  The rest of us will vote for Lee Christie.

Note:  The ballots for this race were due on November 19th.  Due to problems with attorneys receiving ballots, the Indiana Lawyer is reporting that the deadline to turn in the ballots will be extended by a Supreme Court order not yet issued.

1 comment:

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