Safety in the legal world

July 9, 2008
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The recent abduction of an Anderson attorney by his client raised an issue I don’t see discussed much – the safety risks of working in the legal field. Attorneys and judges work in a high-stress environment where court decisions can greatly impact lives. Tensions run high in many divorce cases, custody battles, lawsuits, and criminal cases. Sometimes clients can’t cope with that stress and take it out the person they see responsible for their demise – their attorney or the judge.

Attacks against attorneys aren’t uncommon. Just more than a year ago, an Indianapolis attorney helped save a Fort Wayne lawyer from being pushed over the fourth-floor rotunda railing at the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. The attacker? A Lafayette man angry about the judge’s decision involving an insurance case in which the man’s wife was injured.

Three years ago, a U.S. District judge in Chicago found her attorney-husband and mother shot dead in her basement. The killer was a Chicago man who was angry Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow had dismissed his lawsuit against the medical industry. Apparently, the man was looking for the judge, who wasn’t at home at the time of the murders. The man killed himself after police pulled him over for an equipment violation on his car.

Just yesterday, Anderson attorney Thomas Hamer was tied up by his client Richard Hudson, who was out of jail to attend a Social Security disability hearing in Indianapolis. Hudson abducted the lawyer after deciding he didn’t want to go back to jail. Hudson later let the attorney go and stole Hamer’s car, but he has yet to be caught.

Unfortunately, there are even more examples from around the country of violence against attorneys and judges. As someone who works in the legal profession and handles intense cases where emotions run high, is safety an issue that’s always in the back of your mind when you represent a client or make a ruling? You can’t predict how the client or party in the case will react, so can you even prepare a plan to protect yourself?
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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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