ILNews

New chief defender chosen

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Indianapolis defense attorney Robert J. Hill Jr. is poised to be the next top public defender in the state's largest county.

The Marion County Public Defender Agency's governing board voted March 12 for him to lead the agency after David E. Cook resigns for private practice in mid-April. Cook notified the nine-member board of his decision in December to leave the office after 13 years at the helm, setting in motion a search for his successor.

To help facilitate the transition, Cook agreed today to stay on until April 20.

A public meeting earlier this afternoon entailed an interview of finalists Hill and Indianapolis attorney Eric K. Koselke, who were chosen from 10 original applicants for the job. A third finalist, Mark Kamish of Franklin, withdrew prior to the meeting.

Seven board members voted unanimously for Hill's appointment, with board member Rick Kammen abstaining because he and Hill work at the same firm, Gilroy Kammen & Hill. He noted that he didn't see any conflict, but agreed not to vote. Board member Jon Bailey didn't attend the meeting.

Both finalists had extensive ties to the agency and experience in handling a range of criminal cases, including multiple death penalty cases. Each candidate spoke briefly about their backgrounds, why they wanted the position, and what they saw for the future of the office.

"I've always had an interest and passion for public defense, and believe I can really make a difference for the office," Hill said. "As lawyers, if we don't take care of those without money the same as those with it, the system will break down. It's a calling for all of us."

Admitted to practice in January 1982, Hill has worked as deputy chief public defender from 1994 to 2000, and as a part-time public defender since 1983 on juvenile and major felony cases. Hill is a board member for the Indiana Public Defender Council and has served as a past chairman; he also stepped down from the county defender agency's board recently to apply for this slot. Currently, he works as a contract public defender for Indiana Federal Community Defenders, aside from his private practice.

His goals for the office include being able to transition to a full-time staff, be able to adequately fund the agency, and increase mentoring opportunities within the office, he told the board.

Now, the City-County Council must sign off on Hill's appointment before it takes effect. The board's legal counsel today planned to get the nomination to the council on Thursday so that it could be brought up at the next meeting March 24, but he didn't know if the council could immediately vote or if the issue would have to be referred to a public safety committee before a final vote.

If the council doesn't vote by Cook's departure April 20, Hill will temporarily lead the agency as interim director until the confirmation process is complete, the board voted today.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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