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ICLEO initiative gets national attention from rising fellows

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When he was named to the Madison Circuit bench late last year, Judge Rudolph “Rudy” Pyle III made history in that he became not only the county’s first African-American jurist but also the first Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunities graduate to be elevated to the state’s judiciary at that level.
 

ICLEO Judge Rudolph “Rudy” Pyle III (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

That was the second time he marked the pages of Indiana history as it relates to diversity, as he was one of the inaugural ICLEO graduates back in 1997. His rise through the legal community not only reflects his personal success, but also showcases why the Hoosier diversity program is a model for the rest of the country.

“I’m very honored and very humbled to those who’ve had the confidence in me to be successful in this important post,” the 39-year-old judge said. “This is actually a moment that everyone in Madison County can be proud of, because we as a community have come this far. But it says a lot about where our legal community has come.”

 But while his appointment is historic and significant in its own right, Judge Pyle is just one piece of a larger puzzle. On top of his story, the ICLEO program received national attention recently when the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) honored Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard with the annual award known as the A. Leon Higginbotham Award, named after a federal appellate judge and civil rights activist who died in 1998. He got the award during the association’s 42nd annual conference in March, but it was announced in early May just after three of the state’s CLEO fellows from 2007 finished their terms as members of the national NBLSA board.

The now former-chair of the NBLSA board, who just graduated from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis and plans to take the bar exam this summer, nominated the chief justice for the award specifically because of the ICLEO program. All of the fellows and those running the ICLEO program say his leadership and passion for diversifying the Hoosier legal community is what has made the program so successful.

“He had the forethought, courage, and understanding of the importance of pursuing this program in the first place,” said Tiffany Munsell, who spent her final year of law school serving as the NBLSA’s national chair. “That’s the main reason why we gave him the award. Very few other states have similar programs because they rely on national, but people in this state are just more committed to its success. That’s tremendous.”

Formed by the General Assembly in 1997 at the chief justice’s urging, ICLEO is designed to assist minority, low income, or educationally disadvantaged college graduates in pursuing a law degree. Each year, 30 college graduates get into the program. Students who successfully graduate may be eligible for an annual stipend, which can be awarded for up to three successive academic years if the student remains eligible. The annual stipend is currently $6,500 for public law schools and $9,000 for any private law school in Indiana.

Since the program’s inception, 277 students have graduated and that includes the 24 in the 2010 class, according to program director Robyn Rucker.

With Judge Pyle’s appointment to the bench, Rucker said she is particularly proud of where the program has come since she first got involved and graduated in 1999. The new judge was actually a tutor and mentor of hers, reading essays and giving feedback on how the newer fellows could best prepare for the bar exam. He’s kept up that mentoring by staying involved, she said.

“His appointment is amazing, and he’s an example of how ICLEO helps them gain roots here and stay in Indiana,” she said.

A Rhode Island native, Pyle came to Indiana in 1988 to attend Anderson University and served there as the school’s first black student body president. After graduating in the early ’90s, he became a state trooper for four years before deciding to pursue a law degree. Reflecting on that, the judge recalls that even as early as high school, he’d wanted to be a lawyer and that point in his life was just the right time. Though he wanted a military career and possibly to be an officer in the Army or to go the U.S. Military Academy, his aspirations always came back to being an attorney, he says.

He enrolled at what is now the Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington, and set the stage for how he’d make history for Indiana’s judiciary. During law school, Pyle remembers being asked to participate in a new program being developed — ICLEO. At the time, it began as a national initiative but ultimately lost its funding and would be carried on by the state. In those days as a student, Pyle like the other inaugural members didn’t know what to expect but took advantage of the program that would aid in their legal career’s success.

Pyle also used his police experience to serve as a legal advisor for the Bloomington Police Department during his law school days, and after graduating in 2000 he clerked for four years for Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden. He then went on to become deputy prosecuting attorney in Madison County and handled major felony cases, and opened a private practice where he handled criminal, civil, and corporate cases.

In October, Gov. Mitch Daniels chose Judge Pyle to replace Judge Fredrick R. Spencer, a longtime judge there who resigned while facing a judicial ethics investigation into a lawyer’s claim that he’d decided a murder defendant’s sentence ahead of time. The term expires at the end of 2010, and he’ll face Democratic opponent Kevin M. Eads in the November election.

The chief justice during his annual state of the judiciary speech in January mentioned Judge Pyle, who attended the speech and watched from the balcony. Chief Justice Shepard said that the local jurist joins the ranks of Eduardo Fontanex, a Hammond attorney who served for 10 months in 2003 as the East Chicago City judge and was the state’s first ICLEO graduate to take any bench in the state.

Both are role models for young attorneys and represent what’s possible through ICLEO for anyone interested in a legal career, the chief justice and program graduates said.

Though he shepherded its creation and evolution, Chief Justice Shepard points to the leadership of the three ICLEO fellows on the national NBLSA governing board as evidence of the program’s success: aside from Munsell, there was Leah Dupree from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis who served as national chief of staff, and Gary native Melvin Felton II at Columbia Law School who served as national director of communications. Both Munsell and Felton plan to take the bar exam in July, while Dupree plans to take it in February 2011.

Taking a modest tone about the award named after a man he knew and admired, Chief Justice Shepard also described the late Judge Higginbotham as the true trailblazer deserving recognition while also commending those who’ve gone through the state’s program.

“It was heartwarming to see the NBLSA leadership in the hands of former CLEO students,” the chief justice said. “Indiana decided these young adults had great gifts to offer our state if given the opportunity. They have gone a step further by making a contribution to a great national organization.”

But those running the ICLEO program and utilizing what it offers say the chief justice deserves more credit.

“We have had milestones before, but these back-to-back milestones more recently all stand out to show that the chief justice leads in action, not just in word,” Rucker said. “His commitment hasn’t wavered since the beginning, and this speaks volumes about his continued commitment to diversity. With him leading the way, we’re a beacon for other states to follow.”•
 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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