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Indiana State Bar Association celebrates diversity

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Hundreds of attorneys and judges converged on Indianapolis recently, attending the annual meeting of the Indiana State Bar Association.

The annual conference at the Marriott and Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis offered multiple educational sessions Oct. 13-15, while the ISBA’s House of Delegates heard reports from its various committees and other related legal entities about the progress in the past year. Though no specific new or old business came up for a vote this year, the ISBA welcomed its new president and saw firsthand the culmination of attorney advertising rule revisions its leadership had approved four years ago.

This year’s theme for the meeting was “Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Next Steps,” and most of the committee reports and the conference sessions had diversity themes – such as the immigration and family law seminars, an access to justice session, and appellate practice sessions.
 

Morgan Indianapolis attorney Roderick Morgan finished his term as the Indiana State Bar Association president Oct. 15, after a year of promoting diversity within the profession. Part of his duties included an awards luncheon where he handed out honors. (Photo submitted)

At the annual presidents’ dinner, Justice Peggy A. Quince of the Florida Supreme Court was the keynote speaker. She served as the state court’s chief justice from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2010, and was a part of the court during the historic presidential election and re-count in 2000 that led to the landmark Bush v. Gore case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Like it or not, this is a diverse country and it’s getting more diverse by the day,” she said, noting that it’s important to keep the topic of diversity in regular conversations. “Diversity gets a lot of lip service, but it’s slow to happen. We all have biases and prejudices, so we must try to make sure they don’t spill over into our judging and lawyering. The only way to ensure that is to stay aware of it and attending trainings to discuss diversity.”

Echoing what Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Rucker discussed at the appellate practice session earlier that day, Justice Quince said it’s important to recognize the key reasons for diversity: democracy, business, leadership, and demographics.

She said it’s important to recognize diversity in all corners of the legal community, from minorities to how non-minorities perceive diversity when it’s practiced. The Florida justice talked about a friend who’s an African-American judge, and had a black bailiff, black prosecutor, and black public defender in the courtroom.

“How do you think a white person in that courtroom might feel when their life, liberty, or property is at stake?” she asked. “That’s not diversity.”

Terre Haute attorney Jeffry A. Lind with firm Fleschner Stark Tanoos & Newlin took over as president from Indianapolis attorney Roderick Morgan, who had just finished his term as the ISBA’s first African-American president. At that same luncheon where he was installed, Lind recognized Indiana Bar Foundation executive director Chuck Dunlap and made a contribution equal to one billable hour for the IBF’s “An Hour for Civics” fundraising campaign.

That donation followed an earlier House of Delegates report from Dunlap about the past year’s financial struggles that have left the IBF in dire straights. He told bar association leaders that the historically low interest rates have hit Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts hard and created problems funding pro bono and related programs statewide.

An annual report submitted at the House of Delegates meeting shows that IOLTA income has gone from $3 million to $1.5 million in recent years, to $670,000 for 2011.

That translates into a drastic reduction in what the state’s Pro Bono Districts can operate on, according to the report. Grants totaled $1.69 million last year and for 2010 they totaled $1.57 million, and the 2011 requests of $1.41 million has been reduced to about $1 million. But only $427,000 is available to distribute from IOLTA revenues, the report shows.

Any shortfall must be addressed by the IOLTA reserve fund of $1.9 million, but the Indiana Supreme Court has set a guideline limiting use of the fund in any given year to 20 percent of the balance. The organization leadership asked Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard for permission to exceed that amount so that 25 percent of the reserve balance could be used, providing about $175,000 in additional funding. The Supreme Court approved that request.

But even with that, more money was needed and that’s when those at the ISBA meeting heard more good news for the Bar Foundation.

Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum president Linda Meier announced at the delegates meeting that the ICLEF governing board had agreed to give $100,000 to the Indiana Bar Foundation. She said the money is unrestricted, meaning it can be used on any of the IBF initiatives such as pro bono or civil education programs and services.

Though the IBF still likely faces a shortfall, it can use carry-over funding from some of the districts to help fill the hole. The IBF expects that it will request reconsideration in July 2011 if interest rates improve, but the IBF does expect some “unavoidable reductions” in personnel because of the economic picture.

The House of Delegates also made mention of revisions to Indiana Professional Conduct Rules approved by the Supreme Court, tweaking the attorney advertising rules for the first time in about a generation. The ISBA leadership had studied that issue in 2006 and sent proposed revisions to the court that year, and Chief Justice Shepard said the court had waited to announce these changes until the annual meeting where it all began.•

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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