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ISBA offers 'insider view' of appellate courts

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Indiana attorneys and jurists came together Wednesday to get an insider's view of the state's appellate process and learn more about the nuances of the system.

An afternoon continuing legal education seminar took about 100 attorneys on a walk through the appellate process, from filing motions, how staff attorneys and courts review, and what lawyers can do to make the process easier.

"This is the stuff we all get sweaty palms about, and we'd like to know where the daggers might be coming from," said Indiana State Bar Association president Richard Eynon, who attended the two-hour session.

Put on by the ISBA's Appellate Practice Section, the afternoon seminar was led by a six-member panel including Kent Zepick with Bingham McHale, who moderated the panel discussion; Kevin Smith, Indiana Supreme Court Administrator and Clerk of the Appellate Courts; Heather Smith, Deputy Clerk of the Appellate Courts; Danielle Sheff, a staff attorney for the Indiana Court of Appeals; Russ Hughes, a staff attorney for senior judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals; and Steve Lancaster, Indiana Court of Appeals administrator.

Topics that received attention during the seminar included new procedures attorneys will have to follow for "rotunda filing" once new security systems are in place at the Statehouse, recent appeals involving state administrative agencies relating to how motions and notices must be filed, and how attorneys can assist judges and court staff by including trial court chronological case summaries with their appellate summaries even though court rules don't require it.

"Don't think our court has easy access to trial court records," Sheff said, noting that 7,800 motions with orders came last year and the court often uses Doxpop or CivicNet to access trial records when needed. "If we have to stop to look up the history on your motion, that takes time from everything else."

Another topic delved into an ongoing issue of attorneys' incorrectly citing "Not For Publication" memorandum decisions, especially those being picked up by WestLaw and given N.E. 2d citations.

Panelists also discussed an appellate e-filing system that is currently being studied and could be implemented by the end of the fiscal year July 1, 2008. The courts are investigating IT needs for the entire appellate level this month and want to hear from the legal community this year about how the courts can better assist everyone on this.

"This is your chance to tell us what you like and don't like," Smith said.
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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

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  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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