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Bill: Legal aid services can assess indigency

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Indiana lawmakers want the state's legal aid and pro bono programs to have one less hurdle to navigate through when representing indigent clients, agreeing that there's no need to always tie up court time in establishing indigency.

The unanimous House vote came Thursday on HB 1363, which is authored by Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mt. Vernon, also an attorney with Bamberger Foreman Oswald and Hahn. The legislation provides that a clerk can waive any required fees or court costs on a civil action or petition for a guardian to be appointed, without a judge's approval, if that person is represented by a civil legal aid program or pro bono attorney that's already established indigency.

Designed to improve court efficiency by reducing the time spent on determining indigency, Van Haaften said courts generally waive filing fees even if they require a hearing for a plaintiff represented by Legal Services Inc. or a pro bono district. Those programs set their own standards and have comprehensive screening processes, and there is no need to duplicate the efforts or tie up court resources, he said.

Van Haaften said trial courts would have the option to step back in at any point and re-examine a person's indigency, if needed.

Fiscal research on the legislation notes that the number of people represented by a civil legal aid or pro bono attorney is not reported in the Indiana Judicial Report, though pro bono administrators and directors of legal assistance corporations report that the large majority of indigent plaintiffs are represented in divorce and child support cases. On average, the state's general fund receives fees between $104 in civil cases and $118 in probate cases, and local general funds receive between $32 in civil and $38 in probate, according to a fiscal impact statement.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration; Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, and Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis - both attorneys - have signed on as sponsors.

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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