Monday, October 27, 2008

The Good Pence

I can't foretell whether Linda Pence will be our next Attorney General, but if she loses, I'll never be convinced that the best person won. EVER.

Listen to Pence's critics, and you hear things like:

(1) "she is overzealous"
(2) "she is trying to run a prosecutor's race"
(3) "she's arrogant, and she thinks she's the smartest lawyer in the room," or
(4) "she won't go after corruption in Lake County."

To retort in order...

(1) having an AG who is overzealous is the best thing for Hoosiers. What is wrong with someone who will target those who target us through crime, consumer fraud, professional misconduct, and frivolous personal injury lawsuits filed against state employees and facilities? Anybody who has ever hired a lawyer knows that, as long as the lawyer's actions do not violate the rules of professional conduct, there is no such thing as an "overzealous lawyer."

(2) This segues nicely into the "prosecutor" issue. Among Pence's notable proposals are her desire to combat the methamphetamine epidemic, go after sex offenders, and independently investigate child fatalities, instead of relying on the Indiana Department of Child Services to police itself. These are all great ideas, but people say Pence shouldn't be acting like a super-prosecutor or....what's the word....solicitor general. My retort is, "Why not?" She is not talking about usurping anybody's role. She is talking about, for the first time in Indiana history, having someone who can coordinate crime strategy for the state from a prosecutorial angle. How is that a bad thing?

People who think this is overstepping don't know that history of the office. When Jeff Modisett was Attorney General, his office had a "death team," which would work with prosecutors on both initial death penalty prosecutions and petitions for capital post-conviction relief filed by inmates on death row. We went where help was requested, and it was FREQUENTLY requested.

(3) 95-99% of the cases, when Linda Pence is in a room full of lawyers, she IS the smartest lawyer in the room. And do we really want one who has NEVER actually practiced law? I think back to when AGs all across the country went after big tobacco, and how these AGs' states had to pay a LOT to big law firms. Can you imagine how much would have been collectively saved had Linda Pence been in position to coordinate the effort under the aegis of the National Association of Attorneys General?

(4) A smart lawyer gunning for a superprosecutor image knows you MAKE a huge reputation on corruption. For every insider D she might alienate, she would pick up four R votes around the state for not flinching. Many have suggested that Pence's comment that she would "review all ongoing investigations" before committing to continuing them all meant she would pull the plug. No, no, no. She'll check the file first, which is prudent practice. And if grounds existed to move forward, she'd break a foot off in whoever's (expletive) needed it for justice to be done.

But the truth is, even if Linda Pence had NO new ideas for the office, you'll notice that NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY has said Greg Zoeller is a better lawyer than Linda Pence. Because they can't. They just can't.



Anonymous said...

No such thing as an overzealous lawyer? I think Elliott Spitzer qualifies nicely, though I suppose it depends on how you define overzealous.

It really sounds like Linda - a superb lawyer, indeed - wants to redefine the job of AG. Many of her suggestions would require a change in either statute or constitution. If that's the case she should say so. I suspect she doesn't because she knows the legislature is unlikely to make such changes.

Personally, I don't wan Indiana's version of Elliott Spitzer or anything like it. He had far too much power and proved to use it destructively for his personal political gain.

Admittedly, Indiana's AG is largely ministerial. It lacks prosecutorial power and I'm happy to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I voted for her. We need diversity in public office. Too many white dudes.

legaldiva said...

Anon 8:54,

Spitzer's problem wasn't his was his d!@&. What he did regarding corruption wasn't a bad thing at all, even if it were for political gain. I don't think there's an Indiana constitutional issue with the AG overseeing criminal prosecutions. In fact, they often participate in prosecutions on the federal level, but since they don't have qualified attorneys to complete the cases, the U.S. attorney's office takes over.

Regardless of the role, Pence is a far better attorney than Zoeller could ever claim to be. It's sad that in this instance she could lose based upon partisan politics rather than credentials.

Vox Populi said...

Is anyone else snickering at the idea of Linda Pence hiring male prostitutes?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Okay I really, really don't want our Attorney General shaking down tobacco companies for money, but I agree with you on much of what you say.

There are a lot of Republicans out there, indeed some really big names, who have been terribly frustrated by the Attorney General Carter's lack of aggressiveness on a wide assortment of fronts. The claim that the AG doesn't have the authority to take action is quite often not true

I worked in the area of real estate regulation. We all were terribly frustrated that the AG's Homeowner's Proection Unit would never take an active role, even though they were responsible for licensing real estate agents and appraisers. The AG has the power to fine or yank the license of bad real estate agents and appraisers who were involved in mortgage fraud. They would not do anything. Everyone involve in the regulatory effort constantly complained about the AG's office.

I'd like to vote for a Republican for AG who wants to take an aggresive, proactive role to the office, but that person is not on the ballot.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon, it simply is not true that many of the changes Pence suggests requires a change in the law or constitution. The AG has always had the authority to conduct criminal investigations, for example, and turn those findings over to county prosecutors. The final decision of whether to prosecute has always been the county prosecutor's.

While Pence did talk about being a "prosecutor" in one of her TV ads, I heard a radio ad this morning where Zoeller talked about his prosecuting sex crimes involving children. He also talked about having a 93%"conviction" rate, a term that is a prosecutorial term, not one that is used on a appeal.

So both sides are at fault for playing foot-loose and fancy with the terminology. But the fact is that the AG has a lot more authority than what Carter and Zoeller claim.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I would agree though that we don't need Spitzer. Isn't there a middle ground between Spitzer and Steve Carter? That's what we need.

Anonymous said...


I worked in Steve Carter's office for two years (2001-2002), and I can definitively say that he is just as boring and timid in person as he is in his public persona. I'd venture a guess that Indiana has NEVER had an AG that was more complacent, self-serving, and lacking in legal acumen. Greg Zoeller is to Steve Carter what John McCain is to George Bush, which is to say more of the same.

If we want something less than Spitzer, and more than Steve Carter, we have a perfect candidate - Linda Pence. She would be everything that we've lacked in the Indiana Attorney General's Office since Jeff Modisett sought greener pastures. She may be the most qualified candidate in several decades.

If Zoeller wins, you can just chalk the Indiana AG's Office up as pasture grounds for political patronage, because you're not going to see any real progress in serving Hoosiers.