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Fostering cooperation between Indiana legal service providers

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The Indiana Supreme Court has formed a new commission to address the problem of Indiana residents who cannot afford legal services. But rather than giving attention to the clients, this group will focus on the nonprofit agencies that provide the assistance.

A group of 20 legal professionals from across the state worked on the proposal for the creation of the Indiana Commission to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services during the summer of 2012 and submitted a recommendation to Chief Justice Brent Dickson, who signed the order in September 2013.

access factboxMembers of the workgroup were quick to emphasize the purpose of the commission is not to mandate directives or meddle in agency operations. The broad goal is to enhance and expand cooperation between the many legal aid organizations in the state.

Yet, the introduction of another group does bring concerns of having too many state-level groups addressing the problem of access to justice. There’s already the Pro Bono Commission that focuses on getting private attorneys to volunteer to help indigent clients, as well as the Indiana Supreme Court Committee on Unrepresented Litigants which tackles the increasing number of people who go to court without attorneys.

Chuck Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation and member of the access workgroup, said the question was raised of whether another commission was needed.

Looking at legal services across the state, the workgroup did see a distinct role for the new state body. At present, each organization and committee is working in its own geographical area providing services, but no group is taking a broad view to find ways for the agencies to collaborate, share ideas and improve efficiencies, Dunlap said.

Clark Circuit Judge Dan Moore said the existing organizations wanted to help with coordinating the agencies, but it was too much work to do in addition to fulfilling their own responsibilities. The new commission is needed because right now, “everybody is rowing their own boat,” Moore said, and they should be at the same table talking.

Moore, who also served on the workgroup, believes the commission can not only get the different legal services to collaborate but will also be able to make appeals to foundations and the Legislature for additional funding.

“This is a brilliant move by the Indiana Supreme Court to create this commission,” Moore said.

Vanderburgh County

As an example of cooperation within the legal aid community, Dunlap pointed to Evansville.

In Vanderburgh County, the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana, the locally funded Legal Aid Society of Evansville, and Indiana Legal Services Inc. have been collaborating and coordinating their efforts for many years.

A key part of the cooperation is having the Legal Aid Society and ILS handle all client intake. This prevents the different providers from burning valuable time getting the same information and keeps the clients from getting frustrated by having to explain their problem over and over.

Scott Wylie, president of the Evansville Bar Association, estimated he could spend five hours each week doing as few as 10 initial client interviews to determine needs and assist with placement.

Once the intakes have been completed, the three service providers choose the cases they have the resources to handle.

He acknowledged the organizations do not always agree and can get passionate, but they continue to work as a team because they respect each other.

Wylie hopes the new commission will be able to help replicate this model of cooperation among legal service providers in other counties. By viewing the system as a whole rather than in single pieces that the service agencies see, the commission will be positioned to foster coordination and new ideas for better ways to integrate the different providers.

“In a system that must be rationed, we must be as efficient as possible so we can meet the needs of each and every client,” Wylie said.

Getting the different providers to work together has always been a goal, said Norman Metzger, executive director of Indiana Legal Services Inc. However, with no structured means of enabling that cooperation, the goal has never been accomplished.

Turf wars can break out between the agencies if they feel resources are being taken from them and given to someone else. Metzger recalled a legal needs report issued in 2008 was immediately interpreted as an attempt to undercut the Pro Bono Commission.

To avoid interagency battles, Metzger said the access commission will have to address the concerns by making everyone feel secure and offering assurances that nobody will be put out of business. Then the commission will be able to focus on finding ways to improve the system and prevent having to turn away so many people who need a lawyer.

Perfect time

The Supreme Court must appoint the 17 individuals to the commission. Members are slated to include practicing attorneys, judges, and academics as well as representatives from nonprofits outside of the legal community and from the fields of business, finance and labor.

Also on the commission will be representatives from four different legal service providers in the state along with the chair of the Pro Bono Commission.

Once the members are appointed, they will go through a strategic planning process to develop a more detailed agenda for how the commission will work and what it will do, according to Dunlap. The specifics of formulating a structure and putting together a plan were left to the appointees.

To help facilitate the creation of the Indiana access commission, the American Bar Association appropriated a $7,500 grant. But the money could be lost if members have not been appointed and the strategic planning process has not started by the end of the year, Dunlap said.

Despite the many months that passed before the Supreme Court issued the order, Dunlap is confident the Supreme Court will not let this commission languish. Chief Justice Dickson has made access to justice his highest priority and this commission fits with that goal, Dunlap said.

To Wylie, this is the “absolutely perfect” time for the commission to be formed. The economic recession has depleted resources from the service providers, making them as small as they can be and still exist.

And as the economy recovers and the number of people needing free legal help declines, the commission can rebuild the provider system to be smarter and more effective.

In 2007, the Volunteer Lawyer Program had more funds and staff available to serve fewer clients, Wylie said. As the recovery continues, the commission can lead the improvements so the agencies will eventually be able to serve more clients on the same budget they had in years prior to the recession.•

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  1. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  2. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  3. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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