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Running Against the Wind

ESPN recently posted the following article http://espn.go.com/high-school/girl/conversations/_/id/7906220/in-10-states-girls-run-shorter-cross-country-races-boys-why

Please read my 2008 law review article which can be found under the athletics tab on this website for a more detailed review of why girls don’t run 5k in high school in all states.

“Deep Deceptions” Irish Swimming Sex Abuse Scandal

Deep Deceptions
Deep Deceptions (2010) by Justine McCarthy details the sexual abuse scandal in Irish competitive swimming that was exposed in the early 1990’s. The story of sex abuse and molestation in Ireland’s swimming association is eerily similar to the current situation in USA Swimming. In the Emerald Isle, multiple coaches molested hundreds of young swimmers from at least the late 1960’s on.
Culture of Tolerance
The authoritarian culture of swimming in Ireland made it extremely taboo for athletes to question coaches. The national governing body, Swim Ireland, intentionally swept the problem under the rug and stifled the investigation of the few complaints that were made. Swimmers in Ireland believed that Mr. Gibney (who could barely swim himself) and his fellow coaches/molesters held the keys to their Olympic dreams. Parents did not even believe their own children when they alleged abuse; the parent boards that governed, sanctioned and endorsed swim clubs almost without exception backed the coach whenever he was accused.
Reprisals Against Whistle Blowers
Much like Ken Stopkotte and Mike Saltzstein in the US, the Irish swimming federation did move to discredit and harass the brave whistle blowers.
Gary O’Toole, an Irish Olympian, finally came forward and revealed that George Gibney, the Irish Olympic coach, had not only attempted to molest him as a young swimmer, but also had molested dozens of young swimmers prior to him. Chalkie White, another former Irish international swimmer,(who also swam at Villanova University) came forward and publicly accused Mr. Gibney. Mr. O’Toole, now an orthopedic surgeon, was cast out by Irish swimming. During the Barcelona Olympics, Mr. Gibney criticized Mr. O’Toole on Irish public television and Mr. White was fired from his coaching position.
Arrogance of Molester Coaches
Any criminal who operates for decades without detection will be emboldened to press his luck. In Irish swimming it was an open secret that coaches such as Mr. Gibney sexually molested countless young swimmers. Just like in the US, where molester coaches are still coaching, Mr. Gibney and others continued to coach for decades, despite numerous allegations of sexual abuse. The arrogance with which molester coaches openly operated in Ireland mirrors the current culture in the United States where numerous coaches, well known in the swimming community for molesting young athletes, continue to coach.
Athletes Need to Stand Up For Themselves
The culture of competitive swimming needs to change. Presently in the US and across the world, swimmers of all levels are taught never to question their coaches. Parents and swimmers alike are drawn into an authoritarian system of insanely early morning practices and 5 day long swim meets. Parents, swimmers, coaches, and officials need to take a step back and decide what the proper place of sports is in a young person’s life. Swimming is a sport that should teach young athletes confidence, responsibility, and independence. Competitive sports should teach our youth that there is a direct correlation between their preparation and hard work, and their end results. You cannot fake the level of fitness and skill necessary to achieve top performances in the pool. Swimmers need to wake up and realize that they alone own their performances. No particular coach has the exclusive ability to maximize your potential. Swimmers: Question authority, it is for your own safety.
If you or a loved one has been molested by a coach in any sport, please contact local law enforcement, and please feel free to give me a call or send me an email.

Insurance Companies are Allowed to Bury the Mistakes of their Insureds in Indiana & Hoosiers are to Ignorant to Care.

Crushed By My Own Reform By Frank Cornelius
In 1975, I helped persuade the Indiana Legislature to pass what was acclaimed as a pioneering reform of the medical malpractice laws: a $500,000 cap on damage awards, and elimination of all damages for pain and suffering. I argued successfully that such limits would reduce health care costs and encourage physicians to stay in Indiana — the same sort of arguments that now underpin the medical industry’s call for national malpractice reform.Today, from my wheelchair, I rue that that accomplishment. Here is my story.

On February 22, 1989, I underwent routine arthroscopic surgery after injuring my left knee in a fall. The day I left the hospital, I experienced a great deal of pain and called the surgeon several times. He called back the next day and told my wife to get me a bedpan. He then left on a skiing trip. I sought out another surgeon, who immediately diagnosed my condition as a reflex sympathetic dystrophy — a degenerative nervous disorder brought on by trauma or infection, often during surgery. * * *

At the age of 49, I am told that I have less than two years to live.

My medical expenses and lost wages, projected to retirement if I should live that long, come to more than $5 million. Claims against the hospital and physical therapist have been settled for a total of $500,000 — the limit on damages for a single incident of malpractice. The Legislature has raised that cap to $750,000, and I may be able to collect some extra damages if I can sue those responsible for the August 1990 incident that nearly killed me. But apparently because of bureaucratic inertia, the state medical panel that certifies such claims has yet to act on mine.

The kicker, of course, is that I fought to enact the very law that limits my compensation. All my suffering might have been worthwhile, on some cosmic scale, if the law had accomplished its stated purpose. But it hasn’t.

Indiana’s health care costs increased 139.4 percent from 1980 to 1990 — just about the national average. The state ranked 32nd in per capita health spending in 1990 — the same as in 1980.

It is understandable that the damage cap has done nothing to curb health care spending; the two have almost nothing to do with each other. In 1992, the Congressional Budget Office reported that medical malpractice litigation accounted for less than 1 percent of total healthcare spending. I doubt that the percentage in Indiana is much different.

Make no mistake; damage caps are arbitrary, wholly disregarding the nature of the injury and the pain experience by the plaintiff. They make it harder to seek and recover compensation for medical injuries; extend unwarranted special protection to the medical industry; and remove the only effective deterrent to negligent medical care, since the medical profession has never done an effective job of disciplining negligent doctors.

Medical negligence cannot be reduced simply by restricting consumers’ legal rights. That will happen only when the medical industry begins to effectively police its own. I don’t expect to see that day.

Shortly after writing this NY Times- OP-ED the author took his own life. The Indiana caps on Medical Malpractice are still in place.

Letter to Mark Massa

Dear Mr. Massa,

As young attorneys in Indianapolis, we are extremely disappointed and quite honestly, disgusted, by your recent campaign advertisement condemning Terry Curry for defending a child molester on appeal. Your ad is a slap in the face to our profession, the judicial process and the values which we should all stand for.

The oath we have all taken, including yourself and Mr. Curry states in part: “I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case”. In upholding the Constitution we are all mindful of the Sixth (6th) amendment which affords defendants the right to adequate counsel.

Your ad against Mr. Curry is essentially condemning him for upholding our oath and protecting the Constitution. As attorneys we should all be doing everything in our power to bolster the confidence in our judicial system and the officers of the court. In running your misleading advertisement that condemns an officer of the court for doing his job, you have violated the very oath the office of the prosecutor should be so desperately trying to abide by following the current administration. You have disrespected the courts of justice, judicial officers, and the Constitution. Your condemnation of the actions of a fellow attorney simply upholding our sworn oath and the Constitution raises serious questions about your own integrity. Do you not believe everyone has the right to a fair trial and a good defense? Do you simply prefer that defense attorneys not do their job so that your office won’t have to do their job? How does this make you different that Mr. Brizzi?

We had heard from our colleagues that you were the most qualified candidate for the prosecutor’s office. We were told by many people that worked with you at the Marion County Prosecutor’s office as well as the US Attorney’s Office that you knew how to run an office and would invest in training young prosecutors to uphold the values of our profession. We were told you were a man of integrity. Based on their recommendations you had our vote. After viewing your advertisement that is no longer the case. As attorneys Mr. Massa we are all required to uphold the constitution and advocate for our clients. It is vital that we ensure the system works to defend the rights of everyone, not just the government. We can not believe that a prosecutorial candidate needs to be reminded of that.

Shame on you. Your ad is misleading and a disgrace to our profession. We urge you to issue an apology to Mr. Curry to preserve your reputation in the legal community.

Tort Reform-Be Outraged!

Last week brought the sad news that an Indianapolis Police Department officer driving drunk, on duty killed a motorcyclist. (http://www.wishtv.com/dpp/news/local/marion_county/cops-blood-tests-called-in-question).     The young man was 30. Leaving alone the criminal penalties the officer will face, the value of this young man’s life is capped in Indiana.

In Indiana an unmarried male with no offspring has his wrongful death value capped at $300,000. Further since he was murdered by a Police officer, damages against the state are capped at $750,000.

Further Indiana caps punitive damages at $50,000…YES $50,000 or three times actually damages, but only 25% of that amount goes to the victim! (If the deceased can even get punitive damages)

The cost of trying a case like this, with expert witnesses, depositions, travel, etc. could run into the 6 figures. The insurance company for the City will drag this case out for years and run the attorney for the deceased ragged basically cutting off his ability to bring in income from other cases.

In the end the likely pay out to the victim’s family will be under $500,000 before the attorney takes his cut. The winner in this case is the insurance company.

When Officer David Bisard killed a young man last week, the insurance company breathed a collective sigh of relief…their lobbying efforts and public relations campaigns have taken the only form of redress available to regular Americans and instead turned it into a cash cow for the rich.

Carl Brizzi Should Resign

As a criminal lawyer I am often asked how much or who do I have to pay to make this case go away. I have always wanted to believe that this is not how the system works. I have always told my clients that their personal freedom hangs on the facts of their case and that the system will get it right.

However the recent disclosures of Mr. Brizzi’s unofficial cash for freedom program have made myself and other Marion County attorneys question whether the system in Marion County will in fact get it right.

Mr. Brizzi has repeatedly done favors for the rich and well connected in Indianapolis. The recent disclosures of just how big the favors have been has been devastating to my confidence in his office and in the Marion County criminal justice system.

There are good people working in the prosecutors office, Mr. Brizzi you are not one of them. Resign now and let these fine attorneys begin to restore some dignity and honor to the office that you have pimped and plundered for personal gain the last 7+ years.

USA SWIMMING

Likely if you are reading my blog tonight, you are aware that I represent Brooke Taflinger in her case against USA Swimming. Brooke’s case began over 2 years when it was discovered she was exploited by her USA Swimming coach starting while she was a high school student in Indiana.

I have had the good fortune to partner with James Curran from Milltown, New Jersey, Bob Allard from San Jose, California and the attorneys from the firm Shamberg, Johnson and Bergman in Kansas City.

Together we represent girls and young women across the United States who have been exploited by their USA Swimming coaches.

I believe I speak for all of the attorneys I am partnering with when I say the bravery of our clients, Brooke Taflinger in my case, has been truly inspiring. Our clients speaking out and taking action has exposed the cover up that has crossed decades and state lines. Together Ms. Taflinger and the other young Plaintiffs in our cases have helped saved an untold number of girls from future sexual abuse.

Gun Control in Court, Literally!

As a criminal defense attorney, I obviously deal with a lot of people who have guns when they should not; rarely does an accused person, at least in my experience pack heat with a license.

At one time I also believed that no one should have things like an AK-47; I equated it to something like Second Amendment pornography. I understood that people would want a gun for protection, but an AK-47? Then my friend and I took the AK-47 to the middle of the desert and shot cans of condensed milk. I have to admit,  there maybe a legitimate use for the AK-47.

The recent reports about protesters showing up at town hall meeting with assault rifles to protect themselves, “from the will of the majority”[1] has frightened me; do people actually think it is allowed under the Second Amendment to bring guns to a town hall meeting? More specifically a town hall meeting with the President of the United States in attendance?

As I begin my second year of practice in Indiana, I have noticed that just as inappropriately prosecutors in Indiana are wearing concealed handguns in court. First for safety reasons alone, this is a terrible idea. Often defendants, brought over from the jail are sitting in mass, sometimes 10 or 20 at a time in close proximity to the prosecutor. Why give them the temptation to take a gun off of a prosecutor when his attention is focused on the court?

With every right comes a responsibility. Everyday I work with people who have forgotten that, whether they are defendants or police officers or anyone else. The Second Amendment does allow Americans the right to bear arms, but that right must yield to the general safety of the public, a right so basic that there is no need to explicitly state it in our Constitution. One could argue that safety and stability are among the chief goals of our Constitution. To allow prosecutors to carry concealed weapons in court, undermines those goals, in the very forum where it is supposed to be enforced.


[1] http://ken_ashford.typepad.com/blog/2009/08/guns-at-obama-town-hall-meetings.html