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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