Friday, March 21, 2008

When Is a Republican Not a Republican?

When it's Judge James Payne, the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

I always give respect and praise where it's due. I 'm told people nationally herald Judge Payne as a visionary juvenile court judge. But NOBODY should herald him as a "true" Republican. A "true" Republican (of which there are probably only seven or eight hundred in the country anyway) is someone who not only talks about, but also, actually delivers: (a) less government; (b) "local" control; and (c) accountability.

From a Democrat perspective, I say it is to Judge Payne's credit that he made it a priority to hire new case managers so that each case manager has fewer families to supervise. That's a great thing for children. BUT it's also a huge growth in government employment, isn't it? TRUE Republicans hate that. In fact, they probably want to privatize DCS so they can easily fire case managers who don't carry their weight.

In addition, Judge Payne favored SB 105, which would have created a new system of administrative law judges to establish child support orders. The bill was defeated after very vocal opposition by every county bar association in the state, and the Indiana State Bar Association's family and juvenile law section. Everybody wants more money to be collected (which is a decidedly different goal than establishing more support orders), but creating a whole new governmental apparatus in your agency makes no sense if you're a Republican. Moreover, this bill would have taken away local judges' discretion to not require support orders in CHINS (Children in Need of Services) cases where the parents were already overwhelmed with the task of completing services to get their children back.

The Republican party has historically been the party of "state's rights" and "local control." B ut HB 1001 (a/k/a "the property tax relief bill") as passed, took a LOT of control out of the hands of local judges in deciding what services judges offer to parents in CHINS cases. Admittedly, this was done because the state has assumed more of these expenses, and it makes sense to have the person writing the check supervising what is purchased. But if "local government knows best," why would you take away local decisionmaking?

Here's why. Because, like Judge Payne, most people who call themselves Republicans don't actually believe in local control. I've always thought that Republicans hoisted one of the best pubic relations scams of all time on the American populace when they started talking about how it's better to leave decisions to "local government." (The only better PR move was renaming an anti-aristocracy tax paid through estates as "the death tax"). Why have bureaucrats in D.C. or in Indianapolis decide how you run YOUR affairs?!? We'll leave that up to local people. This is great pandering to the states and local government officials who feel warm and cozy with the confidence bestowed upon them by Republicans.

At the same time, MANY (but not all) Republicans support nationwide tort reform, a nationwide prohibition on gay marriage, and a nationwide prohibition on abortion. In other words, if you want to know when a state or a local government SHOULDN'T decide for itself, here's your handy dandy test question:

Do we, the Republican Party, agree with the decision the "local" government has made? If yes, go to our "state and local government rights" talking points. If no, act like we have no "state and local government rights" talking points.

But back to Judge Payne. On the issue of accountability, HB 1001 adds a provision that says the DCS Director, officers, and employees are not liable for their actions, except to the State of Indiana. Now, who might have wanted this provision and why might they have wanted it? I mean, has anybody read anything bad in the news about DCS or its employees lately that might give some insight into why this is suddenly necessary? Anybody? Oh, yeah. That. Tajanay Bailey.

I may be in the minority on this, but I think immunity is a good thing because DCS would be getting sued every time they took a kid from a home and every time they sent a kid home. No actor in the system can see the future, and even in the Bailey case, the critics are talking in hindsight. Nobody could have predicted that marijuana use and a domestic dispute would lead to a dead child. If those two "symptoms" were the telltale signs of a dead child, we'd have 500 dead kids every day in Indianapolis. But even as one favoring immunity, I recognize I'm hard-pressed to say it doesn't run contrary to accountability.

That's been the Judge Payne's legislative agenda, though - expanding government employment, taking away local control, and taking away accountability. I 'd also be lying if I said I didn't agree with Judge Payne more than I disagree with him. But the difference is that I don't claim to be a small government Republican, and I'm not sure you should get credit for claiming to be something you aren't.

Of course, now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've ever heard Judge Payne refer to himself as a small government Republican. Maybe for a good reason. But I have heard Mitch Daniels call himself that. He should stop until he retools his administration.



Doug said...

Well, *historically* the Democratic Party is the party of "states rights." The defection of Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrats and Nixon's southern strategy changed that.

I don't think State's Rights was ever much more than a euphemism for being left alone to discriminate against minorities, anyway. (See, e.g., the War on (Some) Drugs.)

Anonymous said...

About 30% of the legal profession is now profiting from the destruction of families which began with them selling "no fault" divorce. The social costs of these parasites go well beyond the State as Mommy and Daddy.

Mann Law, P.C. said...

Anonymous. March 21 Divorce often time saves families. Maybe should you want it harder to get married. If you knew anything about what you speak you would know that lawyers would actually make more money from fault divorce. I practice divorce law and most lawyers who regularaly practice ave their clietn's well being foremost in their minds.

Chris Worden said...

Doug nails it again! Anytime I hear "leave it to the states," I almost always expect it to be followed by an under the breath..."so they can continue to discriminate."

Also, Anonymous, as one of the "parasites" profiting from "the destruction of families," I wanted to suggest that accusing lawyers of creating divorce is like accusing ER trauma doctors of making money by taking bullets out of gunshot victims. We don't create the situation that make couples want to divorce, and in most cases, we're there to heal as best we can given a very bad situation. I always start with my clients by asking about reconciliation and counseling. But when I have a client who has been the victim of domestic violence or whose spouse continues to cheat on, even after extensive church-based counseling, what would you have me do? Tell them to continue being beaten and humiliated in their community, even though the Bible itself has sanctioned the divorce on those grounds?

As an aside, Indiana's divorce rate in 1994 was 6.4%. Our closest "fault divorce state," Tennessee, had a rate of 6.6%. So, I'd conclude from this that "no fault" did NOTHING to make Indiana's rate higher (which by the way is the 47th lowest in the country). But because now every divorce isn't scorched earth with every sordid detail isn't carted out and aired in court, maybe families have a chance after a divorce of maintaining the civility that is necessary for two parents to jointly raise a child with the least amount of damage.

Have your fun smashing lawyers. It's great sport! But do some more research first, m'kay pumpkin?