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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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