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Leadership in Law 2014: Sue A. Shadley

Partner, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, Indianapolis • Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 1977

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15col-Shadley.jpg Sue A. Shadley (IL photo/Eric Learned)

There may not be any one person who has had more influence over the development of modern environmental law in Indiana than Sue A. Shadley. She served as an attorney and administrative law judge in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and was appointed the first chief legal counsel for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. She moved into private practice in 1988 when she, George Plews and George Pendygraft formed Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP. She has been a mentor to many at the firm and a strong advocate for women in the law. Sue retired at the end of 2013.

When you began practicing, the number of female lawyers was still relatively small. In the 1970s and 1980s, you held a number of key environmental positions for the state. Did you feel like you were breaking ground at the time?

Yes. I often felt like government was the only place a woman lawyer would be hired in 1977 when I graduated. I did work in developing new programs in surface coal mining and at IDEM, and it was very rewarding to be there at the beginning.

You’ve been inducted into the National Solid Waste Management Association’s Indiana Hall of Fame. How did you get into the practice area of solid and hazardous waste law?

My first job after 10 years working for the state in environmental programs was with Waste Management and Chemical Waste Management. The state was rewriting its solid waste rules for the first time in 12 years. I got very involved in the rule rewrite and did solid and hazardous waste law for my employer and continued to represent them when we started our law firm.

How has environmental law changed since you started practicing?

My area of solid waste has become very inactive. The companies have learned what they need to do; there are very few enforcement actions; the amount of disposal capacity has increased such that landfills are not expanding and do not need new permits.

What’s been the biggest change in the overall practice of law you’ve seen since you began?

It is the number of women attorneys.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

I cannot think of one. Environmental law has been so interesting because it involves so many other areas of law – property law, insurance, taxes, constitutional law, oral advocacy, civil procedure, criminal law. I believe I have used all the courses I took in law school.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I have traveled to Africa three times on game viewing vacations.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

No, I am thrilled with how my law career developed. I would not change a thing.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

Work in animal conservation.
 
Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?


Mary DiNunzio, law firm Rosato & Associates, author Lisa Scottoline.
 
What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Running my own restaurant in my hometown of Hillsboro, Ind., after my first year of college.
 
What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

I always worked very hard and very long hours. I sort of burned out, so I might tell myself to work hard, but try to limit my hours in order to not burn out.
 
What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

 I am not a good example. I worked 15-18 hour days. My husband worked hard also and we did not have children.  I did not balance work and life well at all.
 
We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practice?

Not that much. George Plews, who I started the firm with, is the nicest person and we have always emphasized being civil in our firm.
 
Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

It does not seem to be as bad in the environmental law field. I have always believed people wanted and appreciated what I could do for them.
 
What civic cause is the most important to you?

Helping Native Americans, which developed from reading Tony Hillerman books and traveling in the Southwest.


 

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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