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Editorial: Subpoenas for advocates raise concerns

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
January 19, 2011
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

In our culture, someone accused of a crime gets a vigorous defense to make certain all of the accused person’s constitutional rights are protected. This is as it should be. Those faced with the loss of their liberty or life deserve no less than the best defense that can be put forth.

That’s when the alleged perpetrator is actually accused.

In cases of domestic violence or sexual abuse, or both, not all victims come forward, leaving many perpetrators to go on with their lives while their victims suffer in silence.

Some people carry the impact of this kind of abuse with them their entire lives, never divulging to another human being the fact that it happened.

Programs in schools that teach children what such crimes are have resulted in many kids confiding in trusted adults about what has happened to them. Those adults have in turn gone to the authorities, resulting in child molesting prosecutions that may otherwise have gone unpursued. Again, this is as it should be.

People who have been a victim of this kind of crime not only deserve to see that the crime is punished, but also deserve and, in fact, need the help of competent counseling to successfully navigate the rest of their lives.

Anything that could potentially serve as a deterrent to a victim getting this kind of help should be given careful and dispassionate consideration.

In Crisis Connection, Inc. v. Ronald K. Fromme, Fromme has been charged with two counts of Class A felony child molesting. Fromme’s lawyer has subpoenaed the counseling records of the accusers and their mother, and he says his client needs a judge to review the counseling records in order for Fromme to have an adequate defense.

Attorneys for the counseling center argue that allowing even an in camera review could re-victimize those in treatment, especially those who live in small communities where everyone tends to know everyone else in town. Attorneys for the counseling center also point out should a victim admit he or she committed a crime, such as child abuse, the advocate already has a responsibility to report that to the proper authorities.

Subpoenas of records from counseling centers across the state have been issued by defendants hoping for in camera reviews in their cases, the lawyers also said.

In Fromme’s case, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that such records should be made available for an in camera review if defendants meet the three-step test outlined in Williams v. State. The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer and will hear arguments next month.

We fervently hope that the confidentiality of the relationship between advocate and victim will be allowed to remain intact. And we believe even allowing a judge to examine counseling records violates that relationship.
 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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