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BLE suit moves forward

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Even as the Indiana Board of Law Examiners searches for a new leader, a federal lawsuit remains pending against the state agency’s questions to prospective lawyers about their mental and emotional health.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in late December upheld the May ruling of Magistrate Judge William Hussmann that applicants’ privacy concerns outweighed the need for the BLE to obtain any additional mental health information in discovery. The judge and magistrate assignments have since changed, and Judge Pratt has been weighing that discovery issue for the past several months.

Filed in late 2009, the case of Amanda Perdue, et al. v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, No. 1:09-CV-0842, boils down to accusations that the Indiana bar examination application violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because of certain mental health questions. The plaintiffs are Amanda Perdue, an Indiana resident who’s admitted to practice in Illinois but 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 BLE’s questions.

Judge Pratt’s order Dec. 23 affirms what Magistrate Hussmann had decided earlier last year: that Perdue doesn’t have to answer specific interrogatories from the state BLE and that the board is barred from additional discovery on any of the anonymous class members.

Examining the magistrate’s order and the case at hand, Judge Pratt wasn’t persuaded by the board’s argument that it needs that information to determine whether Perdue is a qualified individual with a disability and constitutes a direct threat to public safety. The applicant has already provided a significant amount of information about her mental health history and that is good enough for the state’s analysis, the judge ruled.

This case is a facial challenge and not one that constitutes a “regarded as” claim, and Judge Pratt decided based on that she isn’t convinced the magistrate’s ruling was clearly erroneous or contrary to law.

Previously, a status hearing was set for April and the court docket doesn’t indicate whether that remains scheduled now that Magistrate Mark Dinsmore has been assigned to the case. Currently, the state has requested that it have until Jan. 19 to file a motion for summary judgment and a response to the summary judgment motion filed by plaintiffs late last year. The extension is needed because BLE counsel took an extended holiday vacation and because of “the complex legal issues and important public policy implications raised by this case,” according to the filed motion.

This is the latest happening since early December, when the BLE’s executive director Linda Loepker resigned from her position unexpectedly. Neither the court nor Loepker has offered an explanation as to what caused the departure and none of the court filings indicate that her departure was connected to this litigation or that it has impacted its progress at this point.

BLE attorney Anthony Overholt with Frost Brown Todd declined to comment on the case progress in recent weeks and instead referred questions to BLE president Jon Laramore.

In an e-mail to Indiana Lawyer, Laramore wrote, “Linda Loepker's departure has not affected the litigation. The briefing will go forward on the schedule set by the court.”

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  1. Looks like 2017 will be another notable year for these cases. I have a Grandson involved in a CHINS case that should never have been. He and the whole family are being held hostage by CPS and the 'current mood' of the CPS caseworker. If the parents disagree with a decision, they are penalized. I, along with other were posting on Jasper County Online News, but all were quickly warned to remove posts. I totally understand that some children need these services, but in this case, it was mistakes, covered by coorcement of father to sign papers, lies and cover-ups. The most astonishing thing was within 2 weeks of this child being placed with CPS, a private adoption agency was asking questions regarding child's family in the area. I believe a photo that was taken by CPS manager at the very onset during the CHINS co-ocerment and the intent was to make money. I have even been warned not to post or speak to anyone regarding this case. Parents have completed all requirements, met foster parents, get visitation 2 days a week, and still the next court date is all the way out till May 1, which gives them(CPS) plenty of to time make further demands (which I expect) No trust of these 'seasoned' case managers, as I have already learned too much about their dirty little tricks. If they discover that I have posted here, I expect they will not be happy and penalized parents again. Still a Hostage.

  2. They say it was a court error, however they fail to mention A.R. was on the run from the law and was hiding. Thus why she didn't receive anything from her public defender. Step mom is filing again for adoption of the two boys she has raised. A.R. is a criminal with a serious heroin addiction. She filed this appeal MORE than 30 days after the final decision was made from prison. Report all the facts not just some.

  3. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

  4. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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