ABA report sees role for lawyers in repairing public trust

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A report from the American Bar Association is calling upon attorneys to help their communities repair the mistrust that divides law enforcement and residents of the communities they serve.

Released in January, the report, “American Bar Association Task Force on Building Public Trust in the American Justice System,” examines the problems and offers ways to find solutions. ABA President Linda Klein, speaking to the Indiana Lawyer, emphasized what works in one community may not work as well in another.

“One size fits one,” she said.

Klein described attorneys as “guardians of the criminal justice system” and said their abilities and skills can help restore confidence in the public safety officials and the courts. In particular, bar associations can take the lead in bringing together prosecutors and defense attorneys as well as police chiefs and community leaders. The lawyers can direct the discussion and help people listen to each other.

“That’s going to go a long way in finding best practices for the community,” Klein said.

Also, the lawyers can help educate the public about civics and how the criminal justice system works. Klein said promoting the rule of law and access to justice is important for lawyers to do because confidence in the criminal justice system is eroding.  

“We are safer when the system is believed to be fair,” she said.

Ann Sutton, chief counsel for the Marion County Public Defender Agency and chair of the Indiana State Bar Association criminal justice section, applauded the ABA report.

“It seems right in line with our philosophy,” she said.

Public service agencies and law enforcement already gather Thursday afternoons in Indianapolis to discuss the jail overcrowding and ways to reduce it in Marion County. Sutton sees a lot of cooperation and collaboration between the representatives from the various organizations including the courts, prosecutor’s office, public defender agency, sheriff and police.

With changes in Indiana’s criminal code keeping low-level offenders in the county jails rather than sending them to the state Department of Correction, the group is limited in ways to cut the inmate population. Even so, people are still willing to meet and talk which, Sutton said, is a smart way to address overcrowding.

The ABA task force was formed in 2016 by former association president Paulette Brown and then incoming president Klein after three straight days of police-involved shootings. On July 5, Alton Sterling was shot by law enforcement in Baton Rouge. On July 6, Philando Castile was killed during a traffic stop by Minneapolis police. Finally, on July 7, five Dallas police officers were killed by a lone gunman in retaliation.

In explaining its position, the task force’s report states that lawyers are “especially suited” to help build consensus about where reform is most needed and how to implement it. Lawyers know how to find, weigh and present evidence as well as evaluate policies and practices. They can also mediate disputes by getting opposing sides to consider other views and find common ground.

Klein believes the most important way to bring about change is through dialogue. Attorneys can help in bringing community leaders and residents together to talk and listen to each other.

The ABA is now shifting its focus. With the report finished, it is convening an implementation group who will assemble a tool kit for attorneys to use in their communities.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: Here are the two research papers: 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  2. MELISA EVA VALUE INVESTMENT Greetings to you from Melisa Eva Value Investment. We offer Business and Personal loans, it is quick and easy and hence can be availed without any hassle. We do not ask for any collateral or guarantors while approving these loans and hence these loans require minimum documentation. We offer great and competitive interest rates of 2% which do not weigh you down too much. These loans have a comfortable pay-back period. Apply today by contacting us on E-mail: WE DO NOT ASK FOR AN UPFRONT FEE. BEWARE OF SCAMMERS AND ONLINE FRAUD.

  3. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  4. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  5. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.