By Tyler D. Helmond, Voyles Zahn & Paul
Marcia J. Oddi
Editor, The Indiana Law Blog
She is a graduate of Indiana University and the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. She served as Revisor of Statutes, Director of the Public Law Division of the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, and Chief Counsel to the Indiana Senate before entering private practice in 1988. She is Marcia Oddi, the preeminent Indiana law blogger, and she has been served with interrogatories.
Q: The Indiana Law Blog (ILB) just celebrated its 10th anniversary last month. How did you decide to start the blog?
A: I’ve had a lifelong fascination with news information and its distribution. (1) My parents were inveterate newspaper clippers, regularly sending me thick envelopes of stories when I was in college. (2) Clifton Utley (Garrick’s father) was an NBC news anchor back in the day when I was working in Chicago. I’d see him on the South Shore, getting ready for his show, clipping stories out of the papers – I was in awe. (3) When I started working for the General Assembly in the mid-1960s, the legislature subscribed to clipping services and I loved reading news from all around the state. So naturally when Howard Bashman started How Appealing I thought, wow, I could do that clipping thing for Indiana!
Q: What is an average day like in the life of the blog? How do you decide what to cover, and how much time does it take?
A: I spend an average of six hours a day on the ILB. Before I get out of bed I’m watching Morning Joe and scrolling through my iPad for news and emails. I file stories away to use throughout the day. I look through a number of online papers. I use Google Reader constantly. I try to start posting between 8 and 9 a.m., but it may be earlier if something big has occurred, or later if I’m working on a long, difficult entry, or have something else on my schedule.
Mid-morning I start looking for court opinions. I check Twitter and my email every few minutes for new news. By mid-afternoon things usually slow down and I can work on more involved posts. Throughout the day I address emails from readers.
A small fraction of what I read ends up on the blog. After all this time I have some sort of internal governor that tells me, “that fits in the blog” or “that doesn’t”.
Q: Frequent readers of the ILB know about your commitment to transparency and access to records. Are you optimistic about the future of transparency in Indiana law?
A: Not really. Look at this past session. A bill to charge fees for public records fortunately didn’t make it this year, but another bill, SEA 369, which allows a public agency to refuse to confirm or deny the existence of investigatory records of law enforcement agencies or criminal intelligence information, is awaiting the Governor’s action. As The Times of Northwest Indiana wrote, “Refusing to acknowledge a record’s existence is even worse than refusing to release it, with or without redaction.”
Q: Assuming a reader follows ILB and has time to follow one other legal blog, which would you recommend and why?
A: SCOTUSblog, hands down. It has cleared the table, insofar as U.S. Supreme Court coverage is concerned, and it gets better every year. Founder Tom Goldstein has been quoted, “The court is so bad at conveying information about what it’s doing, if someone can helpfully step in in a way that’s free and accessible, people really appreciate it.” Of course, SCOTUSblog has had wonderful monetary support, first from a major law firm and now from Bloomberg.
Q: Google Reader is shutting down next month. Do you have recommendations on how to follow the ILB in the future for current users of that service?
A: Yes, follow the ILB on Twitter @indianalawblog. I send out a tweet after every new blog post, and also do some retweets of others’ items.
The bigger question is, how will the ILB keep up-to-date with the news without Google Reader? Don’t know yet, but I plan to start looking on June 1st—the announced shutdown is July 1st.
Q: What do you think has made ILB so popular?
A: Well, thanks! I try to put together “what an Indiana lawyer may want to know today,” plus some mindstretchers and an occasion chuckle.
According to my Sitemeter stats (which only counts clicks made directly to the blog itself), the ILB averages 2,000 to 2,400 visitors each weekday and about twice that number of page views.
Q: Do you have any goals left for ILB? Where do you see it going?
A: I’d like to see more transparency in the judiciary. We are getting there. When the ILB started 10 years ago, transfer lists were not online and neither were Not for Publication decisions of the Court of Appeals. There was little information available for voters when judges and justices went up for retention. The selection process for appellate judges and justices received minimal coverage. All that has improved. And of course the appellate courts videocast and archive most of their opinions; that is awesome.
As for goals which would allow the ILB to provide enhanced coverage:
I’d like the Supreme Court briefs to be posted online as they are filed. Generally these consist of transfer petitions and responses, sometimes amicus briefs, and in rare cases (Malenchik and Quanardel Wells come to mind) the Supreme Court will ask for more briefing.
I’d like the Court to announce what petitions it will consider in its upcoming weekly or more frequent conference (as does the Supreme Court of the United States), and then promptly post the resultant transfer list that afternoon or the following morning.
Finally, an essential and pressing goal for the ILB is finding more major financial supporters.
Q: Professor Joel Schumm is one of the only people other than you who makes contributions to the blog. How did that come about?
A: When Justice Boehm announced his retirement and Chief Justice Shepard announced that the interviews for a new justice, the first in more than 10 years, not only would be open, but the applications would be posted online, I contacted Prof. Schumm to see how we might work together to report on the selection process. I knew Joel then only through the notes we traded back and forth about ILB items. Joel had great ideas and put much time and effort into the coverage and the rest is history. His contributions via the ILB to the Indiana legal community have been, I believe, unmatchable.
Q: If you had to do something other than blog and practice law, what would it be?
A: I began life after college as a biological illustrator at the Field Museum; I would love to spend more time drawing and painting.