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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Another topic delved into an ongoing issue of attorneys' incorrectly citing "Not For Publication" memorandum decisions, especially those being picked up by WestLaw and given N.E. 2d citations.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. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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