Update on Evansville legal community

June 25, 2010
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This post was written by IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

Every spring or summer since I started working here – almost four years ago – I’ve spent a day on the road to and from southwest Indiana to have lunch with the Evansville Bar Association executive director and leadership. I made my fourth trip earlier this week.

If I had the time to travel more often I would, as it is always a great opportunity to meet sources and readers face-to-face. While IL reporters strive to reach out to all areas of Indiana by phone and e-mail when we can’t physically get somewhere for various reasons, nothing beats a day out of the office and an informal lunch to learn more about one of the state’s many vibrant legal communities.

Here’s what I learned from EBA executive director Susan Vollmer and executive assistant Cathy Martin, president-elect Todd Glass, and co-administrator of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana Scott Wylie:

- The Randall T. Shepard Courtroom, named for the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court and Evansville native, will be star of a hard hat reception in October, and will officially be renovated in time for the EBA’s 100th anniversary to be celebrated at the EBA’s Law Day event in April 2011. Chief Justice Shepard was also instrumental in encouraging EBA members to support the renovations. Vollmer added she had some conflicts when trying to schedule the EBA receptions due to other organizations and individuals who have already booked the courthouse, which is partially renovated already. The courtroom, which originally housed the Vanderburgh Superior Court, will likely be used for some court hearings, as well as teen court, memorial events, and other special events for the Evansville legal community.

- Another way the organization will celebrate the 100th anniversary is an oral history project. Retired former executive director Susan Helfrich continues to work on these interviews that will ultimately be available to the public. The history of the Evansville legal community – and how various trials and legal events have shaped the community at large – will also be included in a display at the historic courthouse and online for classrooms to use when completed.

- Similar to court-appointed special advocates, members of Evansville’s legal community have been organizing a program for adults with disabilities or mental illness who need an advocate to look out for their best interests. That program, Guardianship Services of Southwest Indiana Inc. is led by a full-time attorney who works with trained volunteers. The organization recently received approval for 501c3 status. The only similar program Wylie and the others were aware of in Indiana is in northwest Indiana.

- While other communities have closed, moved, or shortened the number of hours of their law libraries are open, Evansville continues to have a law library and librarian. Wylie and others praised the work of Helen Reed, particularly her patience and care that she exudes while working with pro se litigants who can’t afford to hire counsel.

- Chief Justice Shepard will be recognized in another way this fall – a new high school program. The Randall T. Shepard Academy for Law and Social Justice will start at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. The program will take place at Harrison High School, part of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.

The above updates and others will likely be reported in future editions of Indiana Lawyer. Do you have updates about your legal community? Regardless of where you are located in Indiana, I’d like to hear about them. Please post here or feel free to e-mail me directly, rberfanger@ibj.com.


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.