of one of those individuals on death row,
just as he had commuted another death
sentence earlier in his term, based on his
conclusion that that penalty was not fairly
administered in those two cases.
Q: When did you make the move to
A: In 2005, after Governor Kernan left
office, I came to Baker & Daniels. They
were looking for someone to specialize in
appellate work, so it fit with what I wanted
Q: Was it hard to change gears?
A: It was actually my first time in private
practice, so it was somewhat different, but
there are many good things about private
practice as compared to government
practice. One is that clients tend to bring
us their most important matters, which
means that we can spend enough time on
them to really do them well.
Another matter is that we do
everything here at the law firm in teams.
In government, that’s not always true. A
lawyer is on his or her own. Here everything
is done in teams and the colleagueship is
just terrific. It absolutely leads to a higher
quality work product, better ideas and
better client service.
Q: Do you ever miss the government work?
A: I do sometimes, because often in
government one gets to work on problems
that really have a significant effect on lots
of people. In private practice, that’s not
true as often. It’s often disputes that may
have a big effect, but on a smaller number
Q: Looking at some of the cases you’ve
appealed, there seems to be a huge
variety in whom you represent and the
types of cases you work on. Is that a
A: The variety adds a level of challenge
to the practice, but because I’m able to
work with colleagues who bring their own
expertise on many of these matters, it’s not
as much of a challenge as it might seem
at first glance. I think that there’s a real
value being a generalist because you’re
almost always making a case to judges
who are generalists. It’s much easier to put
yourself in the judge’s place when you’re
not an expert in the field of law that you’re
working in. It’s easier to translate the legal
issues into language and concepts that a
generalist judge can understand when you
come from that perspective yourself.
Q: Tell me about the experience of
arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A: I’m nervous before every appellate
argument, but probably more so in this
Supreme Court argument. I’d spent many
weeks preparing and had lots of help, both
from colleagues here in Indiana and across
the country. I hoped to be prepared for every
question, and in large part, I think I was.
What I found most unusual about the
argument is with nine justices and the
podium as close to the bench as it is, [my
head] was going back and forth as if I were
watching a tennis match, taking questions
from the justices on the ends of the bench,
which at that time were Justices [Stephen]
Breyer and [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg. It’s just
a phenomenon of having more justices and
being so close. I didn’t quite get whiplash,
but it was the thing I least expected
Q: It seems like the Indiana Constitution
is an area of interest for you. How did you
become an expert on it?
A: In the attorney general’s office, I was
fortunate to work on several cases that
raised questions of first impression under
the Indiana Constitution. So I came by my
expertise just by working my way through
those cases and learning the constitution
and its history in those specific cases.
As I said, I went on to teach a class on
constitutional law. As a result people will
sometimes come to me regarding issues
and litigation that have arisen under the
Q: Tell me about the Board of Law
A: It’s the group of lawyers that writes
and administers the state bar exam and
recommends applicants for admission to
the bar after determining what the state
rules refer to as “the requisite character
and fitness.” That’s been a significant time
commitment over the past five years.
Q: How do you determine someone’s
requisite character and fitness?
A: Every applicant has to submit a very,
very detailed application that reveals lots
of information about their history. Much of
what we need to determine character and
fitness comes from that. Indiana is the only
state in which every applicant for the bar is
interviewed by a lawyer. The interviews will
occasionally bring to light a circumstance
that causes us to have to investigate
further. We see issues like criminal history
or past history of drug or alcohol abuse,
and we need to make determinations in
those cases if someone is an appropriate
member of the bar or not, or if they need to
be on a conditional admission.
Q: Are there factors that immediately
disqualify someone, or is it more of a
A: The rule only sets up one thing that
comes close to that. If an applicant has a
felony conviction, it raises a presumption
that the person lacks character and fitness.
That doesn’t mean that someone who has
a felony conviction can absolutely never
be admitted to the bar, but it’s a very high
standard. Other than that, the rules don’t
give us specific guidance, so we think about
all the issues that we know arise in practice
and try to take appropriate actions when
we see those.
Q: What would you tell young lawyers
just beginning their careers?
A: It’s very important to develop and
maintain a reputation for integrity and
fair dealing. That’s the most important
goal to have as a young lawyer. The most
important goal to have as a more mature
lawyer is to maintain that reputation.
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LARAMORE ON ARGUING BEFORE
THE U.S. SUPREME COURT