Dinner recognizes challenges of economy, praises efforts of community

October 18, 2010
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IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this blog post.

The 2010 Randall T. Shepard Award Dinner, an annual event to recognize pro bono efforts of the Indiana bar, went off without a hitch on Oct. 15. If anything, it was probably one of the most efficient awards events I’ve been to, but that didn’t make it any less emotional for those in attendance.

Justice Brent E. Dickson started the awards presentation by discussing the importance of pro bono to the legal community. He said the way the districts approach these cases is “exceptional” and said the Indiana Pro Bono Commission had “kept pace with the times,” including innovative ways of handling issues that weren’t as big of a deal when the commission started, such as mortgage foreclosures.

“Kudos to you all for accomplishing what many would think is impossible,” he said, referring to the low interest rates that have led to low amounts of funds from Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts. On Friday, it was also announced to the pro bono district plan administrators that the Indiana Bar Foundation would allocate $427,000 from IOLTA revenues, in addition to $175,000 from the reserve fund – and a possible allocation of some or all of the additional $100,000 Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum gave to the IBF on Friday. Even if all $100,000 went to the pro bono districts, that would still leave a shortfall of $75,000.

To compare to past years: IOLTA income as of mid-2008 – part of which was distributed for use for 2009 budgets – was $3 million; the IOLTA income as of mid-2009, part of which was distributed for use for 2010 budgets, was $1.5 million; and the revenue as of the end of June 2010 was $670,000 – part of which will be distributed for use for 2011 budgets.

But even with smaller budgets, the districts still need to achieve the goals they had a few years ago, “with your hands and feet tied behind your back,” Justice Dickson said.

He also applauded the IBF’s Justice Richard M. Givan Loan Repayment Assistance Program for attorneys in public interest positions, as well as a matching gift program for donations given to the LRAP fund before Nov. 1, 2011, giving attorneys a year to contribute.

He ended his section of the evening by reciting part of the oath all new attorneys take: “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.”

IBF president and Muncie attorney Bob Beasley then spoke about the importance of pro bono, including how he hoped “in the not too distant future that this or other events that celebrate pro bono will attract the largest crowds” of any other event in the legal community.

He added that when attorneys retired and look back at their careers, it will likely be the pro bono cases they took on that they’ll be the most proud of, and what they enjoyed most. Like Justice Dickson, Beasley also explained the importance of the IBF’s LRAP efforts for attorneys who want to do public interest law.

He then recognized Carmel attorney Wendy Clar, who had represented 10 family law cases in 2009, and already nine cases in 2010, through the Heartland Pro Bono District (District 8); Jean Blanton and Jennifer Elston of Evansville, who’ve been working on appeals pro bono for family law cases through District 13 in southwestern Indiana; Baker & Daniels and Wishard Health Services, both in Indianapolis, for their Medical-Legal Partnership; the Indiana Supreme Court’s Courts in the Classroom project about Indiana suffragette Helen M. Gougar; and Baker & Daniels and Eli Lilly and Company’s Street Law Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Melissa May then recognized Ralph S. Adams of Fort Wayne with the Randall T. Shepard Award. Adams was at Legal Services of Maumee Valley until 2008, and continues to work with the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana, Inc. (District 3). In his first year of retirement, he donated nearly 400 hours to help 144 clients. He has also started a hotline on a dedicated cell phone, so if he gets a call, he can respond quickly.

After the awards, most people were ready to head home, but I was able to speak with a few of my regular sources about what they’ve been up to and what I will hopefully be able to soon share with readers about new and ongoing pro bono efforts in Indiana.
 

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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