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Former lawmaker, public defender champion dies

January 1, 2007
A former state senator who'd served the legal community as a public defender and lobbyist for the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association has died.

Robert Hellmann, D-Terre Haute, died late last week at his home after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 60.

Once minority leader in the Indiana Senate, Hellman had been a part of state government since the early 1980s. He was a member of the House of Representatives for four years before being elected to the Senate in 1986, where he served for 10 years. He left in 1996 to campaign for a congressional seat, but lost his bid.

Following his legislative career, Hellman worked as a lobbyist for ITLA. He was currently serving as a Vigo County Council president. During his time at the county level, Hellman also worked as a public defender - a role he'd maintained before being elected as a state representative.

But a love for the law shined through his legislative years.

Earning a law degree from St. Louis University in 1973, Hellmann began his legal career in Robinson, Ill., before moving his practice to Terre Haute. He served as an assistant city attorney and also as a public defender in Vigo County.

In honor of his work as a public defender and on legislation relating to that issue, Hellmann posthumously received a lifetime achievement award from the Indiana Public Defender Council, according to executive director Larry Landis.

Hellmann had sponsored legislation in 1989 that formed the Indiana Public Defender Commission, in which counties are reimbursed 40 percent for indigent defense expenses. In the early 90s, Hellmann was also a sponsor of legislation that authorized counties to create public defender boards.

He also taught business law at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, even into the fall semester of 2006.
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