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Attorney files suit against Indiana's JLAP

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A lawyer in good standing in Kansas is suing Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program officials, among others, claiming his civil and constitutional rights were violated during his application process to practice law in this state.

In the lawsuit filed Dec. 8 in the Northern District of Indiana's Fort Wayne Division, Bryan J. Brown - now an Allen County, Ind., resident - lodges more than two dozen state and federal law claims against the state. The suit, in a roundabout way, also targets the Indiana Board of Law Examiners for referring him to JLAP in January 2008. The case is Brown v. Dr. Elizabeth Bowman, Terry Harrel, et al., No. 1:09-CV-346.

Brown was admitted to practice in Kansas in 1996, and his suit says that an Indiana law license would allow him use the legal system on behalf of pro-life and other traditional Christian causes through the Arch Angel Institute that he created about two years ago. According to the federal court documents attached to the suit, a psychiatrist evaluation showed that Brown "appears to have moral integrity" and that a doctor "found nothing that should preclude Mr. Brown from taking the bar exam." However, that wasn't the conclusion reached by those administering the bar exam and attorney-admittance process, and he was referred to JLAP, the suit says.

The BLE interviews prospective Indiana attorneys wanting to take the bar examination and be admitted to practice here, and a committee reviews applicants' character and fitness to practice law. The JLAP is a separate entity, but both fall under the umbrella of the Indiana Supreme Court. In this case, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard is named as a defendant, as are JLAP leaders Terry Harrell, JLAP executive director, and Tim Sudrovech, JLAP clinical director, as well as unnamed co-conspirators John Does and Jane Roes. Brown is representing himself pro se, according to the suit.

"Upon information and belief all of the foregoing alleges that Plaintiff was the subject of a conspiracy to fail him through the JLAP process by Defendants and others ... Acting in collusion and out of biases, invidious discriminatory intent and animus causing them to target him because of his pro-life beliefs arising out of his traditional Christian worldview and constitutional, conservative, political perspective," the suit says.

This case comes on the heels of the potential class action suit of Jane Doe, et. al. v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, No. 1:09-CV-842, which accuses the bar examination application of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because of certain mental health questions. The plaintiffs are an Indiana woman admitted in Illinois who wants to practice in her home state, as well as the student ACLU chapter at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis where individuals could be impacted by the controversial question.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge William Lawrence in the Southern District's Indianapolis Division denied a state request to dismiss the action. He said defendants' arguments weren't convincing or persuasive, and there are no ongoing state proceedings that would cause the federal case to be stalled. On Nov. 30, the BLE had requested a protective order prohibiting the ACLU of Indiana from obtaining what it says is confidential information about applicants' mental health. No order has been issued on that motion, and still pending before the court are a handful of other issues such as whether class certification will be allowed.

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