On Thursday, September 30 the Indianapolis Bar Association is elevating the discussion of professionalism within the practice of law by hosting Mentors Who Matter – a luncheon highlighting some outstanding professionals in our legal community. This noon luncheon at the Conrad Hotel will include the presentation of IndyBar’s Silver Gavel Award to the Honorable Sarah Evans Barker and the Professionalism Award to Martha S. Hollingsworth of Bingham McHale.
The Honorable Sarah Evans Barker
“The commitment in all our professional dealings to adhere to the highest standards of our shared calling – integrity and candor, loyalty to clients and the courts, fidelity to the rule of law, the diligent and thorough pursuit of the tasks entrusted to us, civility, a sense of fairness, personal modesty,” this is professionalism in the words of the Indianapolis Bar Association’s 2010 Silver Gavel Award recipient, The Honorable Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The Silver Gavel recognizes the recipient’s intellectual honesty and compassion. When asked what she find most challenging to these aspects of professionalism Judge Barker replied, “Time is always the greatest threat to intellectual honesty and compassion. The more pressed attorneys and judges are by the amount and difficulty of the work confronting them, the higher the likelihood that corners will be cut.”
She continued, “Fortunately, in the federal courts, judges have the benefit of excellent law clerks and court staff. These and other protections are built into the process which help to slow things down and structure the analysis to foster intellectual honesty and compassion. But all this takes time, lots of time.”
Having been a member of the Indianapolis legal community since 1972 and a federal judge since 1984, Judge Barker has interacted with and been influenced by a significant number of renown jurists.
“I have been privileged to practice before and work with and be friends of many people who embody the highest standards of professionalism,” Judge Barker said. “If I were to select from that long list (who embody professionalism), I would include the federal judges who taught me how to be an effective trial lawyer and who later became my colleagues on the federal district court bench, ie, Judge S. Hugh Dillin, Judge James E. Noland and Judge William E. Steckler. Each was a mentor and a valued confidant and friend.”
Throughout her career Judge Barker has come in contact with lawyers and judges from throughout the country. Even so, she holds a special appreciation for the lawyers and judges of the Southern District, “I have said many times over the years how privileged I feel to be a judge serving a court located in this particular place. We have an exceedingly fine, upstanding bar throughout our district and an extraordinary cadre of judges – federal and state.”
“The kinds of issues placed before the courts for resolution are significant, interesting, challenging and meaningful. The lawyers, as well as the jurors called upon to help resolve these legal disputes, know that the quality of their efforts makes a real and lasting difference in terms of the quality of justice and public confidence. For me, it remains a distinct privilege to be able to share responsibility for delivering on the promises of justice for all our citizens.
Judge Barker commented on “the season of change currently underway within the ranks of the state and federal judiciary” as two new federal district court judges have recently taken their seats as members of the Southern District Court, a new federal magistrate judge was also recently selected, and the selection of a new Indiana Supreme Court Justice is soon to be announced by the Governor. She remarked, “Through all these changes, I have observed one constant: the truly admirable level of graciousness and kindness expressed towards those who were selected by those who were passed over for these posts and not selected this time. I have been impressed – indeed, touched – by the outpouring of compliments and praise and support conveyed by virtually every one of the unsuccessful candidates, attesting not only to the fact that they themselves are, to a person, class acts, people imbued with the best kind of professionalism exhibiting behaviors that other lawyers and judges admire and all should seek to emulate.”
When asked to comment on her selection for the Silver Gavel Award she made her thoughts clear, “I feel very honored, indeed.”
Martha S. Hollingsworth
To put it simply, yet perfectly; when it comes to professionalism, “We all know it when we see it and cringe when we experience its opposite.” These are the words of Martha “Marty” Hollingsworth of Bingham McHale, recipient of the Indianapolis Bar’s Professionalism Award.
A former co-chair of IndyBar’s Professionalism Committee, Hollingsworth has led efforts to enhance professionalism and initiatives to improve the public’s perception of the profession.
Recently, Hollingsworth was asked about what she sees as threats to professionalism. She said, “Interestingly, it’s the little things such as these that undermine civility and cause disrespect and distrust among attorneys, judges and clients: failing to respond softly to demanding, aggressive or rude conduct of the opposing attorney or our clients; failing to respond in a timely manner to communications from another attorney or our clients that ask for a response; failing to give respect or extend courtesies to the opposing attorney that we would want given to us if we were in similar circumstances; refusing to acknowledge that a legal position lacks supporting authority rather than simply to admit that there is no current legal precedent but the reasoning for the proposition is sound; slightly distorting or exaggerating the holding of a case or the meaning of a statute beyond its actual terms to buttress an argument; purposely misconstruing an opposing party’s position; inferring a wrong or malicious motive to an opposing party’s or attorney’s conduct or position when none may exist or have been intended.”
Currently winding down her practice at Bingham McHale where she has practiced law since 1972, Hollingsworth credits the firm and those she’s worked with and for as her source for professional inspiration. Of her time with the firm she said, “I have been inspired by the clients who have entrusted me with their problems and allowed me the marvelous privilege to represent them, by my law partners in the Bingham firm who always strive for excellence and by the judges and attorneys in Indiana who make the practice of law an honor and a labor of love.”
She continued, “Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with many attorneys and judges who embody professionalism, including Judge Jim Kirsch, Judge Sarah Evans Barker, Karl Mulvaney, Kevin McGoff, John Maley, Chris Scanlon, Carl Pebworth, Don Blackmond, John Trimble, Tom Bodkin, and Art Surgine, to name just a few. It is good to realize how many in our profession have a reputation for honor, respect and trustworthiness.”
To be honored with the Professionalism Award is something Hollingsworth described as “humbling”. She added, “It is immensely gratifying to be included among the exceptional attorneys who are past recipients of this award.”•