A court decision of biblical proportions witnessed locally

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

From where we sit, our courtroom judges would do well to emulate the historic qualities of their biblical brethren.

Of course, then again, wouldn't we all.

But our judges, decision-makers that they are, probably are best served to employ a major dose of the patience of Job, seasoned with a heaping helping of the wisdom of Solomon.

Brought to a boil, that recipe should keep even the least charitable of them from becoming the proverbial Doubting Thomas.

That all came to mind the other afternoon as the so-called "perp parade" unfolded in Putnam Superior Court.

Sitting in for Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges for the day, Senior Judge T. Edward Page had his sense and sensibilities taxed to the max.

Invoking nothing short of the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job, Page made a landmark ruling in the annals of Greencastle and DePauw campus streets and boundaries.

Page, former magistrate of the Superior Court of Lake County for more than 16 years, was called upon to establish local boundaries for a former DePauw student banned from campus late last year, yet continuing to live in Greencastle.

Solomon, of course, had been famously called upon to resolve a dispute between two women claiming to be the mother of the same baby.

When the wise one suggested cutting the kid in two with a sword and splitting the baby 50-50, one woman immediately offered to give up her claim to the child rather than see it killed.

Smart old Solomon, wise guy that he was, then declared that woman -- the one who showed real compassion -- to be the true mother, and gave the baby to her.

Judge Page didn't have a baby to deal with, but he had a touchy situation involvoing defendant Alexander Chen, 23. He has been banned from the DePauw campus because of an August 2012 indiscretion involving alleged marijuana growing, dealing and using activities at DePauw-owned West Hanna Street housing.

He's not allowed to set foot on campus or enter any campus building or facility. So it's a good thing Marvin's delivers if Chen craves a garlic cheeseburger or he'd be risking arrest just to visit campus hangout.

Chen, Justin David Mann, 22, and Colin Patrick Graham, 21, were all implicated in the alleged marijuana activity at the West Hanna student condos. Chen is hoping to be reinstated next semester and is living in Greencastle.

Therein lies the problem. Chen resides at 11-1/2 S. Indiana St., above Dick's Barber Shop, just south of the courthouse square and around the corner form DePauw's new bookstore, Eli's Books. He works at both KFC on Bloomington Street and Humble Pie pizza (though he does not deliver) on Berry Street in the South End.

"This makes an exile order somewhat awkward," offered Judge Page who recently banned an Indianapolis man from entering Putnam County after he was found hunting rabbits and firing his shotgun on North Putnam property.

Even Deputy Prosecutor Jim Ensley seemed sympathetic to the current defendant's bizarre plight.

"I'm not even sure," Ensley said, "that given where he works, he can get to work without driving through campus."

That made Judge Page think aloud.

"How do we deal with this matter to the satisfaction of everyone involved? And can we even do that?" he mused.

"Unlike the England case," the senior judge added, "I can't exile him from town."

So Page began to carve out a zone, the interior of which Chen must resist entering or risk arrest and violation of his probation.

"Even if your apartment catches fire," the veteran judge warned Chen, "make sure you run north, not south."

Under no circumstances, Page ruled, is Chen to enter the area bordered on the north by Walnut Street, on the south by Berry Street (or Broadway), on the east by Bloomington Street and on the west by Jackson Street.

The ruling allows him to drive on Jackson Street north and south, but not to go east or west off of it. Between Walnut and Berry, Judge Page instructed, Chen may not leave the main roadway.

"I think you're going to find the easiest thing to do it to stay away from Jackson altogether," Page said, suggesting Chen take Walnut to Bloomington to Berry to get from his apartment to his job at Humble Pie.

Ensley saw the fairness in that decision as long as Chen wisely abides by the terms of what Judge Page has set out.

"That's the best I can do in terms of a restriction," Page said succinctly. "You're to stay away from campus and campus activities."

Not sure Solomon could have said it any better than that.