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Annual Talk to a Lawyer event a success

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While the official numbers are not yet available from Monday's statewide Talk to a Lawyer Today event that annually takes place on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all 14 pro bono districts participated.

Attorneys who work in District 8 - Boone, Hamilton, Marion, Hendricks, Hancock, Johnson, Morgan and Shelby counties - participated at the statewide call-in center at the Indiana State Bar Association. There, 26 lawyers talked to 322 callers yesterday, up from 266 last year, according to Laurie Beltz Boyd, the district plan administrator for Heartland Pro Bono Council. Boyd and others who participated said they noticed an increase in the number of calls from Marion County but said it was likely because of the publicity the event received from Indianapolis-based media outlets.

As to why lawyers participate, two Indianapolis city lawyers who volunteered at the call-in center said there were multiple reasons. Steve Neff and Leannette Pierce have volunteered every year since 2005. They agreed the CLE was a good deal; a six-hour CLE is offered to all volunteers in exchange for taking one pro bono case and volunteering two hours at Talk to a Lawyer. While Neff and Pierce cannot take pro bono cases because of their positions with the city, they paid a nominal fee instead.

Both said it was a good experience to talk about a number of legal issues with members of the community. This year, Pierce said she heard more child support questions than before; Neff said he answered many questions about debt and bankruptcy issues. Each attorney received 10 calls during the 9 to 11 a.m. shift.

While some attorneys are intimidated because they aren't used to multiple areas of law, Pierce said the book volunteers receive is very thorough. She added the book has been helpful after the event when relatives ask her legal questions she doesn't know offhand.

In District 2 - St. Joseph, Elkhart, Kosciusko, and Marshall counties - a Talk to a Lawyer event took place at the St. Joseph County Public Library. Amy McGuire, executive director of the St. Joseph County Bar Association, said 18 attorneys and 10 paralegals helped more than 90 people with a variety of legal issues. McGuire said the event was so successful and appreciated by the library that the library invited the bar association and the South Bend-based Volunteer Lawyer Network Inc. to have a similar event on a monthly basis.

In District 13 ­- Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Martin, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties -12 attorneys and five paralegals helped prepare 29 wills as part of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana Inc.'s partnership with Southwest Behavioral Healthcare. Indiana Lawyer reported on this partnership in the Aug. 19-Sept. 1, 2009, edition, "Project helps patients create wills." 

District 13 also has a regular Talk to a Lawyer Today program on the first Thursday of every month. In District 3 - Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley counties - 48 attorneys and six non-attorney volunteers helped 193 people, based on information from Indianapolis attorney Patricia McKinnon, who volunteers and helps track statistics statewide.

McKinnon also told Indiana Lawyer that in District 14 - Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Crawford, Orange, Washington, and Scott counties - seven attorney volunteers answered 16 calls, mostly about family law issues. In District 1 ­- Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, and Starke counties - plan administrator Judith Stanton was still compiling the data from multiple sites in her area. She did say the number of people asking for help was up in Starke County and down at the Valparaiso University School of Law site.

This event has been sponsored by the Indiana State Bar Association since 2002.

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

  2. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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