Friday, November 7, 2014

Post Election Review: The Difference Between Winners and Losers at the Court House

Arrogance Was Meade's Undoing

It was a night of political upsets in Tippecanoe County. 

Perhaps the biggest local upset this week was the defeat of Les Meade in his bid for Circuit Court judge.  Coming off a primary win over challenger Earle McCoy, Meade could have been considered the front runner for November's general election; however, he was blindsided by a bombshell announcement that would cut short any staff changes Meade may have been contemplating for the court. 

Retiring Superior Court Judge Tom Busch was recruited by most of the local bar association to run against a man they did not want to work with for the next six years.  Busch had earned a reputation for being kind in demeanor.  He won friends easily from both parties and became a well-respected father figure to young, new attorneys.

Attorneys refused to file cases in Meade's court.
According to insiders, Meade was difficult to work with.  He has been described as "rude and arrogant" in demeanor.  Meade has also reportedly threatened to order lawyers and police officers to jail.  He has punished defendants with excessive sentences for merely exercising constitutional rights, and even belittled a veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which resulted in a judiciary complaint being filed against him.  Lawyers boycotted his court by refusing to file cases in it.

Meade's political enemies were numerous; however, unless one had to work with him or had the misfortune of appearing before him as a defendant, his arrogant demeanor was not well known among the general community.

Meade's campaign slogan was "experience matters."
It was a touchy situation for Meade's opponents since the rules of the bar association prevented lawyers from speaking out against judges.  To do so privately is even risky, but a few of them were brave enough to do it for the sake of the local judicial system.

Meade's campaign slogan was "experience matters;" however, if one compares the experience of Judge Busch to that of Les Meade, it is clear that Meade had none.  

Ironically, a political unknown during his first election, Meade stepped into the race to challenge a political Pariah who had earned a reputation for being rude and harsh to defendants.  A former prosecutor, Laura Zeman earned a loathsome reputation and was soundly defeated by Meade, due largely to the anti-incumbent mood of the day.  Some believe Meade let the win go to his head and became worse than his predecessor in many respects.

 More About Donat and Less About Zeman

So why did Zeman get elected this week after being thrown out of office years ago some have asked?

Insiders say Judge Greg Donat became complacent and it was time for him to go.  Zeman happened to be in the right place at just the right time.  Had someone stepped up in the General Election the way Tom Busch did, many say Zeman could have easily been defeated. 

Our advice to Laura Zeman would be: Don't get too comfortable in that robe and chair, and for Pete's sake, take off your prosecutor hat!  You aren't there to help prosecute people!  You're there to administer blind justice. 

People haven't forgotten the shabby way you treated people in the past, and we'll be watching very closely.  We have many eyes and ears in the courthouse, and hope for the sake of the community you have learned from past mistakes.  Take a lesson from honorable judges like David Krause, Don Daniels, and Tom Busch.  They treat people the way they would like someone to treat their own mothers.  Don't blame others.  You earned the reputation, and you are the only person who can change that.