Tuesday, April 20, 2010
LAWYERS IN THE LEGISLATURE
The Chief Justice of Indiana, Randall T. Shepard, recently penned a thought-provoking article entitled, "Making good law requires more lawyers." The piece appears in the April edition of Res Gestae, the journal of the Indiana State Bar Association. The Chief Justice observes that Indiana, like many other states, has seen a decline in lawyer-legislators, and he opines that this is a bad thing. Public service in this mode is often rendered to the detriment of one's own legal practice, and fewer attorneys have been willing to make that sacrifice. The gist of the article, briefly stated, is that our state is better served when more attorneys are willing to serve their communities by running for, and thereafter serving in, the legislature.
It is difficult for me to say this without sounding somewhat provincial, but I strongly agree with the thesis of the article. I don't in any way mean to suggest that those untrained in the law are incapable of serving well in the legislature; that is clearly not the case. But it makes sense, it seems to me, to have as many legally trained minds as possible involved in creating the laws that govern our society.
Commenting upon the recent decline in the number of lawyer-legislators, Chief Justice Shepard concludes that, "The Public at large is not well served by this paucity of legal voice."
He goes on to note that, "The special contributions of the legally trained mind to the deliberations of multi-member bodies, our special talent for problem-solving, and our general attitude of commitment to the common good seem to me good arguments for why the end product in public policy, not just in craftsmanship, is better when a good number of our profession are engaged." I am inclined to agree.
This topic is of particular interest because there is currently a local race for state representative pitting a lawyer challenger against a non-lawyer incumbent. While the challenger's status as an attorney is far from the most important issue to me, it definitely is a factor to be considered. I agree with the Chief Justice that it generally behooves us to have more lawyers in our legislature.
Monday, April 12, 2010
IT'S A BOONDOGGLE!
At a recent meeting of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, a sign-carrying protester voiced his displeasure with the Ohio River bridges project by yelling, "It's a boondoggle!" The occurrence has been widely reported in the local print media. Sadly, I have as yet seen no footage of the incident, nor have I heard any recording of it.
I have to smile when I picture this episode unfolding. What were the reactions of the committee members? Did people laugh? Was there an awkward silence? Were people shocked at the lack of decorum? My purpose in posting this is not to express an opinion on the bridges project, but rather to remark on what must have been an amusing public occurrence.
The word itself is funny. Boondoggle. According to Merriam-Webster, it means, "A wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft." It is a fetching word that I have not heard used very often. In this instance, the word clearly and succinctly expressed the speaker's feelings about the project.
I like the word. I think I'll have to add it to my repertoire and begin using it whenever possible. Perhaps I'll find some occasion when I can shout it out in a public forum. Meanwhile, if you happen to have been present at the meeting and would like to comment about the incident, please do. I would love to hear more about it.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
BE "FORE" WARNED!
The Indiana Court of Appeals recently held that a participant in a golf scramble was not entitled to maintain a lawsuit for injuries she sustained when she was hit in the mouth by an errant golf ball. The suit was brought by Cassie Pfenning, who was sixteen years old when she volunteered to operate a beverage cart at a scramble sponsored by a bar called Whitey's and held at the Elks golf course in Marion.
Cassie was on a cart path near the 18th hole when, without having heard any warning, she was struck in the mouth by a golf ball that had traveled more than two hundred feet. She sustained injuries to her mouth, jaw and teeth. She filed suit against the golfer who had hit the ball, the sponsor of the scramble and the Elks lodge where the scramble was held.
The court rejected the plaintiff's claims. In doing so, it noted longstanding Indiana law which has held that there is no duty from one participant in a sports activity to another to prevent injury resulting from an inherent risk of the sport. Cassie's attorneys argued that she was not a "participant" in the golf scramble because she was only driving a beverage cart, but the court rejected that argument. The court held that although Cassie was not actually playing golf herself, she clearly was a part of the sports event involved. Because being hit by a stray golf ball is one of the inherent risks in the game, the plaintiff was not entitled to maintain her lawsuit.
The decision is Pfenning v. Lineman, 922 N.E.2d 45 (Ind. App. 2010).