An advocate remembered

October 9, 2009
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IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger fills in for Jennifer Nelson with this post:

When Indiana Lawyer started to hear about the recent death of a prominent domestic violence victim’s advocate, comments about the attorney just kept coming from the legal community – even before we posted it as a Daily story yesterday.

Deborah K. Hepler, 56, perhaps best known for founding the Protective Order Pro Bono Project of Greater Indianapolis in 2000, died Oct. 5. She had suffered from breast cancer.

Deb was active in many non-profit organizations, sitting on the board of Indiana Legal Services, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis, and Carmel Community Players.

A celebration of her life will be held at the Northside Knights of Columbus, 2100 E. 71st St., Indianapolis, Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m.

U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney, along with family and friends, will share their memories. Friends and family have also been asked to wear purple or red, Deb’s favorite colors.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Protective Order Pro Bono Project of Greater Indianapolis through the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at (317) 917-3685.

Here are just a couple of the comments we received at Indiana Lawyer via e-mail in the last couple days:

“Deb's passion for pro bono work and the practice of law in general was infectious. As well as being a great attorney, Deb was a loving friend and mentor. She touched the lives of so many and will continue to do so through the legacy she has created,” said Indianapolis attorney and former coworker Amy S. Wilson.

“It is with deep sadness that I report to you the passing of Deb Hepler this morning [Oct. 5]. As you know, Deb was a very active and passionate member of our board for many years. What you may not have known is that she was fighting breast cancer during this last year, while still putting tremendous energy into her work for the poor, and into Indiana Legal Services. Her passing is a loss to the entire legal services community, and our condolences go out to her family,” Paul A. Leonard Jr., president of the board of ILS, wrote to board members.

“Deb truly was a wonderful human being. She gave so much of herself to all of the worthy causes in which she was involved. Her enthusiasm and drive inspired many people to join her in giving of their time as well. She will be greatly missed by the community,” said Indianapolis attorney and former coworker Julia Blackwell Gelinas.

Because we don’t have room to publish every comment we’ve received about Deb and her contributions, if you would like to share your thoughts, we encourage you to post your comments here.
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  • Deb was an amazing woman. I had the priviledge of working with her to make her idea of the Protective Order Pro Bono Project a true reality, as its founding Executive Director. With the help and dedication of an amazing board, we met people; we talked of the project and it was easy---because her idea sold itself and still does today. Mentoring law students while assisting survivors as pro bon council--a unique idea and a one of a kind program then and even now.
    She was remarkably intuitive to survivors\' needs. She was a caring advocate, an phenomenal lawyer, an absolutely devoted mother, wife, sister and daughter, and a great friend. I will miss her (and even the 6:20 am phone calls with ideas), more than even I realize. This legal community will miss her even more than it realizes because she was one of the best its ever had. She was a star.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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