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Court sends reminder on permanent withdrawal rules

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Note to Indiana attorneys: don’t permanently relinquish your law license in this state unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t ever want to return. If you do, don’t be surprised if you have to take the bar exam again.

That’s the message the Indiana Supreme Court reiterated on Monday, issuing an order in Ronald W. Harmeyer v. State Board of Law Examiners, No. 94S00-1107-BL-4686, that denies a former Fort Wayne lawyer’s request to be readmitted in Indiana without re-taking the bar exam here.

Admitted in 1992, Ron W. Harmeyer began practicing in Indiana and was admitted in Wisconsin in 1996. In late 2008, he submitted an affidavit of permanent withdrawal to the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission and agreed that he would need to comply with Admission and Discipline Rules 3-21 if he ever wanted to return to practice in Indiana.  His license was relinquished in December 2008.

Under the state’s attorney admission rules, lawyers must take the bar exam and be admitted within two years, or they must take the exam again. Retired attorneys can be readmitted through lesser requirements without retaking the bar exam, but that does not apply in this case. Harmeyer sought and received permanent withdrawal.

On July 11, 2011, Harmeyer called the Indiana Board of Law Examiners to ask about reinstatement and was told he’d either have to retake the Indiana bar exam or seek a provisional or business counsel license to be readmitted. He filed a petition with the Supreme Court that same day requesting a review of the BLE’s final decision, arguing that the state admission rules require a person to take and pass the bar exam here only once and so he shouldn’t have to do so again.

“The phrases ‘final action’ and ‘final determination’ (in Admission and Discipline Rule 14) denote a greater degree of formality than exists in Harmeyer’s situation,” Chief Justice Randall Shepard wrote in the order, noting that the information wasn’t a “final action” as Harmeyer described it.

Harmeyer’s petition is dismissed as procedurally premature. But Chief Justice Shepard added that even if Harmeyer’s petition followed a “final action” from the BLE, the court would likely have denied it because the rules clearly inform attorneys the consequences of permanently relinquishing their law licenses – that includes passing the bar exam again if the lawyer has not secured a provisional or business counsel license.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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