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Abrams: The Indianapolis Bar Association and HJR-3

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jeff abrams ibaAs you know, the Indianapolis Bar Association issued the following press release on Monday, January 27, 2014 prior to the Indiana House of Representatives voting to remove the second sentence of the proposed Constitutional Amendment.

The Indianapolis Bar Association today announced its opposition to HJR-3, the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, and HB1153, its companion legislation. Last week, the Indianapolis Bar Association surveyed its members regarding their position on HJR-3. 2,196 members responded to the survey, which reflects a 47.4% response rate from the members receiving the survey; this is the highest survey response rate on record for the association. The results of the survey revealed that 73.1% of the respondents were in favor of publicly opposing HJR-3, 20.1% favored taking no position on the measure, 5.4% were in favor of supporting HJR-3, and 1.5% had no opinion.

Considering these survey results and the Board’s review of the proposed amendment and companion legislation, the Indianapolis Bar Association opposes passage of the proposed amendment and legislation. First, based on Indiana constitutional history and precedent, the content of this amendment stands out as inappropriate. In the 163 year history of the State’s constitution, it has been amended on subjects such as term limits, taxation, governmental structure, elections, and courts. Prior amendments dealt with what government could and could not do, and how the government is to be formulated and operated, not the regulation of its individual citizens. Second, members of the Indianapolis Bar Association expressed great concerns about the unintended consequences upon potentially hundreds of Indiana laws if HJR-3 is passed and ratified, including those in the areas of family law, criminal law, employment law, health care law, and tax law. This uncertainty would likely lead to an interruption in the administration of justice, years of litigation and significant expense for individual citizens and Indiana businesses.

The Indianapolis Bar Association is a voluntary membership organization comprised of 4,928 attorneys, judges, paralegals and law students. Founded in 1878, the association’s mission is to serve its members, promote justice and enhance the legal profession. The association is governed by a 32 member Board of Directors.

The IndyBar has historically weighed in on matters that affect laws and the practice of law. Our legislative committee meets every year at this time to review proposed bills and if needed, provide comments to committee members as to the affect the proposed bills may have on attorneys or the practice of law. This is done every year. We also have our mission statement which provides we are to serve our members, promote justice and enhance the legal profession. One issue discussed was the conflict presented by HJR-3 in trying to meet all three of those objectives.

We had several members of the IndyBar, including some board members, ask us to consider adopting a response to HJR-3 for various reasons. After two separate board meetings and hours of discussion at each one, it was clear that emotions were running high on the proposed amendment. We had outstanding discussions with input from every single board member. I am very proud of the approach, candor and intense yet respectful discussions the board had during the process.

Ultimately, it was determined that the best approach was to solicit information from our membership so we clearly were speaking for our members and not just what we believed our members wanted. Thus, the survey. As a result of the survey and more hours of discussion, the press release was generated. We reviewed previous Indiana Constitution amendments as well as the summary of the laws prepared by the IU Maurer School of Law that may be affected by the amendment. You will note that we opposed it primarily on how it may affect lawyers and the practice of law. We also discussed the need to provide education, and we will continue to discuss how that can be achieved.

The board knew that when taking this public position, not all of our members would agree. We respect our members’ views on these important matters even if they weren’t the views of the majority of members. However, the board felt comfortable taking this position as a result of the strong statement from our members in the survey overall. I hope that all members will appreciate the time spent to clearly understand exactly the opinions of our members and to draft a response appropriately, even if it did not conform with the view of all 4,928 of our members.

The House and Senate will continue to debate this issue and since the time that I delivered this article to the staff for the Indiana Lawyer, I am sure that more discussions, protests and statements will have been made for and against the amendment. I would only ask that all of our members clearly understand why the board took the position it did, respect the process that we went through and ultimately the decision we made. Many members of the board received emails from IndyBar members expressing their opinions on the issue, and I encourage those emails and discussions to continue so that we may continue to better serve our membership. Ending this article with a poem has been a challenge, but here goes.

HJR-3 has been a challenging topic for your IndyBar board.

If any of you have a secret solution acceptable to all, I would surely pay a HUGE reward.

I can assure you, all comments have been considered and certainly not ignored.

Please give the IndyBar some time, so any waning support is clearly restored.•

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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