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.