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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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  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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