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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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