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Task force makes recommendations for pro bono reporting

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As the Indiana Supreme Court continues to consider mandating all Indiana attorneys report the number of pro bono hours they work, a task force has proposed that the donated hours be disclosed publicly only in an aggregate form rather than identifying the number of pro bono hours performed by an individual or a firm..

The disclosure proposal was one of five recommendations made by the Indiana Pro Bono Commission’s Pro Bono Reporting Task Force. The Supreme Court asked the Commission to appoint an ad hoc task force to make suggestions on how a mandatory reporting requirement would be implemented.

Indiana Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth, chair of the commission and leader of the task force, emphasized that the task force has only offered proposals. How any reporting requirement would be implemented has not been determined.

“We are recommenders, we are not deciders,” Wentworth said. “We have been asked to recommend only.”

The Supreme Court also underscored that the recommendations have not been adopted. At this point, the justices have not discussed the report and the court is not expressing any opinion on any of the recommendations.

Task force members were unanimous on the public disclosure recommendation. The task force concluded giving the total number of pro bono hours worked instead of listing hours by attorneys would still serve the purpose of the reporting rule to more accurately determine how many pro bono hours are provided annually in Indiana.

In addition, opposition to publicizing the hours by attorney has been strong. The task force believed an aggregate approach would ease fears that the reporting rule was the first step toward auditing reported hours, disciplining noncompliance or mandating pro bono service.  

The five recommendations made by the task force are as follows:

1)    CLE: Do not waive continuing legal education requirements in exchange for pro bono legal service. Forgiving CLE hours for pro bono work could send the wrong message that donating legal services is more important than keeping abreast of practice techniques and changing laws.
2)    Public Disclosure: Publicly report the pro bono hours only in an aggregate manner. Do not identify the number of hours donated by individual or by firm.
3)    Definition of Pro Bono: Do not change the definition of “pro bono publico service” in the Professional Rule of Conduct 6.1. Although attorneys had requested the meaning of “pro bono” be clarified and broadened, the task force recommended against a rewrite because pro bono programs have been developed with the current definition in mind. However, the task force proposed a Frequently Asked Questions supplement should be widely available to give real world examples and guidance on the distinction between “pro bono” activities under Rule 6.1 and reportable “pro bono” activities under the proposed Rule 6.7.
4)    Draft Rule 6.7: Identify which pro bono legal services are reportable in the proposed Pro Bono Reporting Rule (Professional Rule of Conduct 6.7). Allow attorneys to make a financial contribution to a qualified entity as an alternative to providing pro bono service.
5)    Implementation: Add a field to the annual online attorney registration for Indiana attorneys to report their pro bono hours and/or a financial contribution. Noncompliance would be impossible. Each attorney would have to enter a number for either pro bono hours or financial contribution in order to proceed. Entering zeros would technically comply with the reporting rule.

The Indiana State Bar Association and the Indiana Pro Bono Commission are accepting comments on the proposals through Aug. 8. Attorneys can contact the ISBA at 317-639-5465 for further information. Attorneys can submit written comments to the Indiana Pro Bono Commission at 615. N. Alabama Street, #122, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

All comments will be forwarded to the Supreme Court administrator.  

Attorneys can access the report through the ISBA website by clicking here.
 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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