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Letter to editor: Articles attack integrity

April 28, 2010
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Letters to the Editor

To the editor:


Over the course of my 41 years as a member of the Indiana bar, I have worked to help improve the justice system in Marion County and the state of Indiana. Many of those activities have involved working to uphold the integrity of the bench and bar. You can imagine my surprise, then, upon reading articles in the Indiana Lawyer, The Indianapolis Star, and the Indianapolis Business Journal falsely impugning my integrity and the integrity of our law firm.


Specifically, those articles suggested that an associate of this firm and I secured a sentence modification for Paula Willoughby in 2009 that was based on campaign contributions instead of the merits of this particular case. These suggestions are baseless and are the result of reckless journalism.


I represented Ms. Willoughby in her original trial in March of 1992. That trial ended in a mistrial, and I represented her in the re-trial in August of 1992. My involvement in Ms. Willoughby’s case ended in 1996, when the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed her conviction following appeal and reduced her sentence from 110 years to 70 years. I have had absolutely no involvement in her sentence modification whatsoever, contrary to the false suggestions in the reporting of this matter.


The insinuation that campaign contributions made by me and associate Jennifer Lukemeyer were improper and resulted in the modification is equally inaccurate. Over the course of my career, and as a Democrat, I have given to candidates of both parties in local, state, and national elections. In the last election for Marion County prosecutor, I made a donation to the campaigns of both Carl Brizzi and his opponent, Melina Kennedy. My motivation in making these and other donations has been to support well-suited candidates to improve our government. I have never made an improper donation or accepted an improper advantage from making a donation, and neither has Jennifer Lukemeyer. Suggestions to the contrary are false and could have been resolved with proper research.


There is a lengthy tradition of campaign support from members of the Indiana bar to candidates in local elections. Lawyers often have many interactions with local candidates, whereas the typical citizen has no interaction with local candidates. As a result, lawyers are often better informed to evaluate local candidates, and in many instances have been asked by those candidates to fund their campaigns. A number of years ago, I was a member of the Indianapolis Bar Association Board of Managers. We discussed, and I supported, establishing a blind trust for campaign contributions to judicial candidates. The idea was not embraced at the time. This idea is again being considered by the Indianapolis Bar Association and many others following the United States Supreme Court opinion in Caperton v. Massey, which addressed contributions to judicial candidates. While I continue to support the idea of establishing a blind trust, the contributions made by me and my associates were proper and had no bearing on the outcome of any case.


Readers of the articles covering the Willoughby case and several other cases should note that no effort was made by the media to disclose the merits of granting the requested relief. One such case was that of Guilford Forney, represented by Bruce Donaldson at Barnes & Thornburg. Mr. Donaldson has written an eloquent letter, published in the Indianapolis Business Journal and Indiana Lawyer detailing the specific deficiencies of the reporting in these cases. I agree with him when he wrote that the media has injured its own reputation and credibility as a reliable source of information as a result of these articles.

James H. Voyles Jr.
Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan & Merriman, Indianapolis

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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