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Blomquist: In Defense of Hope

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blomquist-kerryI’ve been reading this book about the benefits of positive anticipation. Well actually I’ve owned this book for several years but I put everything aside and pick it back up when I start to believe that cynicism is the great disease of the era, and, frankly, I begin to feel infected.

Don’t lie. We all have those moments when we feel like Western Civilization has, indeed peaked. When the CNN “news flash” on my iPhone is about the relentless yet oh so boring “sextual” escapades of NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. Add insult to injury when CNN is quoting “theDirty.com” as a viable news source when they report Weiner’s alias is/was “Carlos Danger.” People, you just cannot make this stuff up. When fear of any number of things (terrorism, economic ruin, undocumented immigrants, global warming or gay boy scouts) dominates us to the point that our number one coping skill seems to be to shut down and talk about Anthony Weiner.

So I pull out the book I have about hope. Hope is, according to Jim Wallis, editor of the evangelical social justice magazine Sojourners, “believing, in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change.” How incredibly cool is that?

As reported in the last issue of The Indiana Lawyer, Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson hopes that we will eventually have fewer and fewer pro se litigants in our courts because we Hoosier lawyers will step up and volunteer for those who cannot afford counsel. At this time of continued sequestration when court and legal service budgets are suffering drastic funding cuts, and there are more pro se litigants than ever before, access to actual justice is in question. Pro bono service must be the answer. Here, I footnote three resources:

1. The Oath we all took: “…I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance, so help me God.” Sound familiar?

2. Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 6.1. Pro Bono Publico Service: A lawyer should render public interest legal service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means or to public service or charitable groups or organizations, by service in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession, and by financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

3. Your mother. Let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do.

Speaking for the IndyBar, we are beginning to see the evidence change.

This year the chair of the Pro Bono Standing Committee is Judge Mark Stoner, and under his leadership this bar association has so far in 2013 provided pro bono legal services to well over 1,100 people, and folks, those are just the cases we assigned. Snapshot into the world of the IndyBar pro bono effort:

• Ask-a-Lawyer: 220 hours donated; 567 people helped.

• Legal Line: 112 hours donated; 399 people helped

• Low-Asset Will Program: 52 hours donated; 16 people helped.

• Homeless Shelter program: 150 hours donated; 80 people helped.

You get the picture here, right? While these numbers are only estimates and don’t include key programs like the Bankruptcy Help Line, the Modest Means Program and the Hospice Program, this is remarkable on all levels, and the lawyers, paralegals and law students who are volunteering their time cannot be praised highly enough. Thanks to them, the evidence is indeed changing.

A word to those who have quietly abstained from pro bono work: Give it a shot. I just volunteered for the Hospice Program and the training was fascinating. Yes, it is out of my professional comfort zone, but there can be no better work than helping people leave this world securely, and I feel safe with the support of the program and the mentors it provides. If you cannot practice pro bono, consider funding it. All legal services organizations are in a world of hurt right now—you can help them.

So when you are having one of those days when it is easier to focus on Anthony Weiner than on the myriad of troubling social ills that seem to be ignored, refocus. Redirect the bright shiny light on the work of our members who are helping justice come and settle in the corners of hundred of Hoosiers. Try to realize that, in the paraphrased words of Billie Holiday, “The difficult, we can do right now. The impossible will take a little while.1”•

1 CRAZY HE CALLS ME, a song written by Carl Sigman and Sidney Keith Russell. Sung by the incomparable Billie Holiday.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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