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. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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