You probably think this article is about the current presidential election. You would be incorrect. The title is literal. That is, what does the Posey Circuit Court do and who does it? Many of my friends ask me these questions. Actually, I do not have that many friends but the few I have often ask, “Do judges work?” One of my brothers, the one who practices law, answers this question thusly, “No!” But he was always prone to being overly dramatic. And his opinion is usually expressed right after he has lost a case. I do not feel any urge to disabuse him of his prejudice.
Instead I would like to share with you, Gentle Reader, an exposition of what really goes on in the Posey Circuit Court. Let’s start with one of the Court’s four court reporters, Liz Miller.
Elizabeth Ann (Dayton) Miller has been with the Court since January 2015. She is our newest member. While each court reporter may step in for the others when needed, each court reporter has particular areas of responsibility. Liz’s is court administration. She prepares and presents our budgets, claims and payroll to the Posey County Council, Board of Commissioners and the County Auditor. Liz also picks up the mail, prepares the next day’s files for court and transcribes testimony from court hearings.
Lizzie, as only her four siblings call her, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her family moved to Posey County when she was twelve so her father could take the position of plant chemist with G.A.F. Liz and all of her siblings graduated from Mt. Vernon High School.
Jeff Miller, Liz’s husband of 34 years, is a native of Savah where, according to Liz, he plans to stay until he becomes one with the soil. Jeff and Liz are members of Mt. Vernon’s First Christian Church.
Liz has been actively and deeply involved in public service in Posey County for many years. She was Co-Chair of Relay for Life 2001–2005. Liz received the Relay for Life Courage award in 2006. She has chaired the Gateway for Cancer Research Longaberger Basket BINGO every year since 2004.
While Liz has numerous other public service accomplishments one of her proudest honors is being chosen one of Posey County’s Torchbearers for Indiana’s Bi-Centennial Torch Relay celebration. To commemorate 200 years of Indiana history Hoosier citizens from across our state have been nominated and selected to carry the Torch from our first State Capitol in Harrison County through all 92 counties.
Liz and her fellow Posey County honorees will receive the Torch at noon on September 11, 2016 in Mt. Vernon in front of the Hovey House. She will be one of the twenty Posey County citizens who are being honored for their public service. Liz is grateful but humbled by this recognition of her dedication to helping others and promoting Indiana’s long tradition of service and progress.
To those who may wonder what the court does, I submit Liz. Perhaps we can discuss other Court functions and functionaries later.
Abraham Lincoln who was a storekeeper before he was a lawyer is credited with the statement:
“A lawyer’s time and advice is his stock in trade.”
But if an attorney becomes a judge what is her/his stock in trade? For what do we pay our judges? It is not their time; judges receive salaries. It is not their advice; judges are not supposed to give advice, only decisions based on the evidence and the law.
And why do we need somebody whose job it is to not give advice, i.e. to keep their personal opinions to themselves and decide cases objectively?
Society has plenty of people whose role it is to suggest and execute policy. County commissioners and council people, mayors, governors and presidents come to mind.
We also have lots of people whose job it is to pass legislation and fund it. State legislatures and Congress have those duties.
Such executive and legislative bodies have not only the right but also the obligation to express opinions and advocate for their positions. We elect these people for those very purposes. We may agree or disagree with our Executive and Legislative bodies as we choose.
But where do we look for objective decisions on important matters? What gives us confidence that issues wrangled over by individuals or such public servants as presidents and senators will be resolved fairly and impartially by that third branch of government, the Judiciary?
Judges have no armies or militia. Judges cannot impose taxes or pass legislation. Why do we even listen to much less comply with a judge’s decision, especially one we disagree with?
When I have taught judges from other countries such as Palestine or Ukraine or Russia they invariably ask me how I get citizens to accept my court judgments and follow them. In many other countries the concept of the Judiciary as a separate, equal and independent branch of government is impossible for the judges themselves to grasp. They are so used to court decisions being based on the political leanings and connections of judges nobody expects an unbiased judgment. America is supposed to be different.
Of course, we are all partisan. If a sitting judge voices a political opinion we agree with, we not only may not mind, we might applaud. Yeah for our side! However, should a judge portray prejudice against persons or positions we support we lose confidence in our legal system. And that is the only stock in trade judges have, i.e., confidence the judge is impartial.
The momentary elation we experience when some judge violates her/his duty and publicly rails for or against a particular person, party or position fades rapidly when we realize the judge is acting from prejudice. This is so because we know that we may have to face a judge who decides cases on whim not law.
There are many reasons America remains the land of the free but one of the most vital reasons is our independent judiciary. Are America’s judges human? Yes. Are they prejudiced? Yes. Is the perception they are going to decide cases without allowing their prejudices to control their view of the evidence important. You know it!
The Universe is nearly fourteen billion years old according to some scientists. Their concept of time as linear makes no sense to me if by “The Universe” they mean everything. My puzzlement is, what was there before? Why isn’t that part of “everything”? Even if they only mean all matter and the space between it, the “matter” had to come from or be something before the Big Bang, if there was a Big Bang. Perhaps the scientists are as the gods, “Their ways are higher than my ways and their thoughts are higher than my thoughts.” I can live with that.
Our tiny blue speck of The Universe is about four and one-half billion years old say these experts. I am okay with that estimate as it has a beginning about half way through the “beginning” of The Universe. In other words, the earth came from something; “Star Stuff” says astronomer and philosopher Carl Sagan.
Africa, our home of origin say these wise men, started breaking from the super-continent Pangea about a quarter of a billion years ago. Humans came along maybe three to four million years ago in Africa and we Homo sapiens evolved around two hundred thousand years ago. We named ourselves Homo sapiens, which means “wise men” or “wise humans” in Latin. It is probably only a coincidence that Latin is a dead language.
North America likely was first inhabited by these wise creatures around fourteen thousand years ago. The original Americans, the Native Americans one might say, lived more or less undisturbed for around thirteen thousand years until a few Norse men showed up and stayed a short while. Then the people we all nod and wink at as the “discoverers” of America arrived in 1492 and the immigrant gates slowly opened.
Two hundred eighty four years later we revolted against Great Britain. It took another 145 years before we completely subjugated the Natives and started to unsubjugate women. African Americans had to wait for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We are still stumbling toward total acceptance of some other groups.
Some might complain that fourteen billion years should be long enough. However, as we contemplate the significance of July 04, 1776, others might be enheartened and invigorated to complete, “the great task remaining before us”. I guess it depends on who evolves.
Peg and I are going to Istanbul soon. We planned our trip, and paid for it, a couple of months ago. We will fly out of the airport that was just bombed by three Russian-speaking people from Uzbekistan, Dagestan, and Kyrgyzstan. All three are part of the old Soviet Union. Their leader may be a Chechen known as Akhmed (One-Arm) Chatayev who now lives in Raqqa, Syria. ISIS claims Raqqa as its capital.
When Peg and I were sent to Russia in 2003 by the National Judicial College to teach Russian judges, we had an incident as we prepared to fly from Volgograd back to Moscow. Our clearly marked American luggage was suspected of having been used by Chechen rebels to smuggle a bomb onto the plane with the Russian judges and us. Although a ticking sound had been detected, our luggage was cleared. It was good to walk away from the plane when we got back safely to Moscow.
Chechen rebels have been struggling against the dominant Russian culture for many years. Akhmed One-Arm is reported to be a Chechen rebel turned ISIS leader. Other than some bizarre misinterpretation of Islam and a sense of bitter impotence against the governments of Russia and Turkey I see no logic in Syrian terrorists teaming with Chechen ones to kill innocent civilians in Turkey. My guess is they could not explain it either.
What they do have in common, I think, is a willingness to kill and die for a cause they see as greater than their miserable lives. The fact that most of their victims are innocent Muslims does not appear to enter their calculus of indiscriminate carnage.
I suppose they see themselves as patriots and martyrs. But to what end? For what purpose? Are they martyrs who die for their religion? Are they patriots who kill to establish their caliphate?
The one and one-half billion Muslims who go about raising their families and paying their taxes are surely as perplexed as the rest of us at the counterproductive insanity engaged in by a few thousand madmen. I say they must be insane because they keep engaging in the same terroristic behavior and expect a different result other than causing the rest of the world to coalesce against their goals. In dealing with illogical behavior we humans usually apply logic then we are puzzled when the result we expect to effect does not materialize.
As for me and Peg and our trip to Istanbul, we plan to follow the approach of Admiral David Farragut: “Damn the Terrorists, full speed ahead.” Hey don’t quibble it got us out of Russia didn’t it? Do you believe Peg is always complaining that I never take her any place exciting?
It is apropos that names are called handles. We prefer to have an easy way to categorize one another when we deal with individuals or groups. Sometimes we apply or even devise nicknames for others in a subconscious effort to shift the balance of power in our favor. Examples might be: “girl” or “boy” when dealing with adults we wish to hold back. Of course, we try to make our efforts subtle and often accompany them with a smile.
But it is with groups where our need for domination is strongest. We sometimes seem to be unable to assume the best in others or to believe anyone else acts from altruism. We ask, “What’s in it for them?” The forbidden subjects of politics, sex, religion, ethnicity and race raise their specters here. Heck, let’s dive right in.
In dealing with women, some men sometimes dump them all, but their mothers, into one group: broads, bimbos or b…..s. This enables those men to con themselves into a sense of superiority. In like manner, some women sometimes categorize all men, especially their husbands, as deaf and dumb except when talking with other men about other women or sports. Women often say about men, “They just don’t get it.” As a man I have no idea what that means. However, it does allow “the girls” to deal with “the boys”.
The national news media has hard and fast rules for dealing with public figures, especially politicians. According to CNN, MSNBC and Fox, there has never been an honest politician or one who is motivated by public service. They are all engaged in a conspiracy to feather their own nests while driving America off a cliff. The media relishes such handles as “corrupt”, “ignorant” and “greedy”. There are worse appellations applied also, but this is a family newspaper.
In the area of religion I have no fear of the general debate between the faithful and the doubtful. Those of us who live in New Harmony, Indiana have an ongoing dose of Father George Rapp’s religious utopia and Robert Owen’s secular one. The pious say they are spiritual while the Owenites tag them as superstitious. The Rappites say the atheistic Enlightenment adherents are lost. Each group has to have its handles for the other. For me, this represents the general debate between believers and skeptics. Of course, there are many variations of both. For example, some atheists and skeptics may see “agnostics” as hypocrites or simply bet hedgers. Christians may see Jews, Muslims and Pagans as damned and vice versa. However, there are plenty of divisions within each group which denigrate even their fellow travelers and have names for each sect.
But we humans really strive to get a handle on others when it comes to racial or ethnic groups. Some people sometimes call Germans Krauts, Irish Micks, Hispanics Spics, Japanese Japs, French Froggies, Chinese Chinks, homosexuals Queers, Arabs Ragheads, American Indians Blanket A…., Negroes N……, Italians Dagos, etc., etc., etc.
Thanks to political correctness, a good thing in my opinion, many of these handles for women, men, nationalities and races have almost disappeared. Unfortunately, some still think it is okay or even comical to denigrate individuals, groups and occupations they are not related to or a part of; moviemakers and television drama producers come to mind.
Perhaps we just need to get a handle on our insensitivity and ignorance. Oh, by the way, Happy Birthday to us Americans as we proudly proclaim all people are created equal in our great country on July 4th!
The aptly named Fibber Mc Gee had a wife named Molly. As with many couples Fibber often saw his remarks as witty whereas Molly saw them for what they were. In most of their more than 1600 radio episodes from 1935 to 1959, Fibber would spout out some lame attempt at humor and Molly would set the record straight with, “T’aint funny Mc Gee”. I dredged up this sage advice to obtuse comedians when I walked into one of my favorite shops and saw that my friends who run it had posted a sign derisive of lawyers, banker and others.
I know the owners well and find them caring and witty. That made this lapse of awareness even harder to understand. They are certainly not old but, perhaps, old enough to remember the days of “Whites Only” or “No Irish Need Apply”. We all are aware of our current pariahs, Muslims, Arabs and Mexicans. Should we not be among these groups we might not mind the plethora of movies and television shows depicting Arabs, Muslims and Mexicans as murderers and drug runners. We might even nod knowingly at caricatures of Muslims berating women or Mexicans who look like gangsters.
One of the ironies of the sign posted by my friends is it contains several pieces of advice about holding one’s tongue or not saying words we cannot take back. In other words, it recognizes my Mother’s sound advice: “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing.”
Over the years I have from time to time lost sight of this wisdom. Each time I have regretted it. One of my worst memories, and one I cannot exorcise, is from 1966 just after I got out of the Air Force. I grew up in Oklahoma which at that time was segregated by law. The dominant white culture had a lexicon of numerous “witty” sayings. One of these was sometimes used to denigrate certain products such as Spam or Vienna Sausages, etc. Men, it was a male thing, would respond to a comment about a product they disliked, “Well, a thousand Niggers couldn’t be wrong.” In other words, only a “Colored” person would eat that. We white guys would laugh.
Well, back to 1966. I was working on the night shift at RCA in Bloomington, Indiana with an African American friend of mine at a time when we both smoked cigarettes. I smoked Winston’s and he smoked a menthol type. When a mutual friend of ours commented over the lunch break about the odious smell of the menthols, unfortunately, it just popped out of my mouth, “Well, a thousand Niggers can’t be wrong.”
My Black friend looked at me with sadness and said, “That hurt my feelings.” Things changed after that.
My friends, perhaps your sign may be witty to some, but to others it hurts feelings. I know that was not what you were thinking. Perhaps you were like me in 1966 and just were not thinking at all. Perhaps, as Ronald Reagan might have said, “My friends, take down that sign!”