Indiana's chief justice receives award for diversity efforts

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The National Black Law Students Association has honored Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard for his trailblazing work in diversifying the legal community, largely with the creation of the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity.

Chief Justice Shepard received the annual award known as the A. Leon Higginbotham Award, named after a federal appellate judge and civil rights activist who died in 1998. Chief Justice Shepard was given the honor during the association’s 42nd annual conference in March.

The Indiana Supreme Court announced the honor this week, just after three of the state’s CLEO fellows from 2007 finished their terms May 1 as members of the national NBLSA board.

Taking a modest tone about the award named after a man he knew and admired, Chief Justice Shepard described the late Judge Higginbotham as the true trailblazer deserving recognition while also commending those who’ve gone through the state’s CLEO program.

Formed by the General Assembly in 1997 at the chief justice’s urging, ICLEO is designed to assist minority, low income, or educationally disadvantaged college graduates in pursuing a law degree. Each year, 30 college graduates get into the program. Students who successfully graduate may be eligible for an annual stipend, which can be awarded for up to three successive academic years if the student remains eligible. The annual stipend is currently $6,500 for public law schools and $9,000 for any private law school in Indiana.

Chief Justice Shepard points to the leadership of the three ICLEO fellows on the national NBLSA governing board as evidence of the program’s success: Tiffany Munsell, a 3L at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, served as national chair and she plans to take the bar exam in July; Leah Dupree, a 3L at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, served as national chief of staff and she plans to take the bar exam in February 2011; Melvin Felton II, a 3L from Gary studying at Columbia Law School, served as national director of communications and he also plans to take the bar exam this July.

“It was heartwarming to see the NBLSA leadership in the hands of former CLEO students,” the chief justice said. “Indiana decided these young adults had great gifts to offer our state if given the opportunity. They have gone a step further by making a contribution to a great national organization.”


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.