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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. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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