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Court will hear attorney withdrawal case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to take a case exploring how litigants can proceed on their own after the attorney withdraws prior to trial, particularly when a language barrier may exist.

Justices on Thursday granted transfer in the civil case of Rudrappa and Jayashree Gunashekar v. Kay Grose, d/b/a America's Affordable Housing J&K Manufacturing, No. 02A03-0712-CV-614.

In an Aug. 12 unpublished memorandum opinion, the Indiana Court of Appeals had reversed the trial court's denial of the Gunashekars' pro se motion to continue after their attorney withdrew from the case six weeks before trial.

The Allen County case stems from a 2002 fire that damaged a commercial building the Gunashekars owned. They hired a contractor for $147,337 of repair work, but the insurance coverage came in less than that amount. The Gunashekars' payment to the contractor wasn't honored, and that resulted in a lawsuit that was scheduled to go to trial in late July 2007. The Gunashekars' attorney withdrew in mid-June, and the trial court granted the motion to withdraw and ordered that no continuance would be granted. The couple was ultimately ordered to pay the damages, as well as treble damages, but a new attorney argued that the court should have allowed them to continue the trial in order to find new counsel.

"There is little in the record to indicate whether the Gunashekars foresaw (their attorney's) withdrawal, were at fault or were diligent in attempting to secure new counsel," the court wrote. "Nevertheless, (that attorney) withdrew six weeks before trial of a complex case with non-native English speakers potentially subject to treble damages. While several relevant concerns suggest that (his) withdrawal may have compromised the Gunashekars' presentation of their case, nothing indicates that Grose would have then been prejudiced by a delay."

The appellate court remanded for a new trial in the 2-1 decision, but Judge Ezra Friedlander disagreed that the trial court's denial constituted abuse of discretion and that a more detailed look at the facts is necessary. The judge would opt for more trial court discretion in this case and more evidence that a language barrier existed, he wrote.

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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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