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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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