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. 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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