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ITLA focuses on education, legislation, amicus briefs

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As the year comes to a close, the president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association said the organization of about 1,000 members will continue its three major goals: to provide educational opportunities, to write amicus briefs when there is a broader issue that can apply to cases and clients of trial attorneys, and to track bills as they are submitted by legislators for the 2011 session of the Indiana Legislature.

President Thomas Doerhman of the Indianapolis firm Doerhman & Chamberlain said these three purposes of ITLA – education, legislation, and submitting amicus briefs – are important to members, which could be why the organization has maintained a steady membership over the last few years. Doerhman is about halfway into a yearlong presidency which ends in May 2011.

doehrman Indianapolis attorney Thomas Doehrman is halfway into his yearlong term as president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association. He has been a member for at least 25 years, and said that networking opportunities and CLEs are just two key benefits of membership. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Doerhman has maintained his membership in the ITLA for at least 25 years, he said, because it is “the only organization in the state that is committed to the civil justice system and to keep the civil justice system open for the common person to use for legal remedies.”

He added that because it is specific to trial attorneys, the organization has been a great way to keep up-to-date on issues that trial lawyers need to know about, including CLEs.

One of the group’s most popular CLEs of the last few years focuses on the resolution of liens at the end of lawsuits. A video replay will be offered Dec. 15 at the ITLA Conference Room, 150 W. Market St., Suite 210, Indianapolis.

“It’s a very specific topic when it comes to Medicaid and Medicare, and ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) liens,” he said. “The law is complicated in that area and always seems to be in a state of flux. When settling a civil claim with injuries, you need to take into account if other parties who’ve paid medical bills will get any money back.”

ITLA also offers a few year-end CLEs, including the popular “Last Chance Seminar” on Dec. 8, a wrap-up of the major changes in civil and criminal law. ITLA will also host video replay CLEs between Dec. 1 and 21 from 9 a.m. to noon most days. Those CLEs are open to members and non-members. More information on these CLE opportunities is available on ITLA’s website, https://www.indianatriallawyers.org/, which says there will be free popcorn for viewers.

Another way ITLA helps educate its members is by introducing them to other ITLA lawyers so they can learn from each other. Doerhman said the listserv for sustaining members has been helpful for networking, “especially when I’ve needed to find attorneys around the state.”

President-elect John O. Feighner, an attorney with the Fort Wayne firm Haller & Colvin, said the listserv has been the biggest change in the organization since he joined in 1977. He added that he uses it in his practice daily, and he has noticed others using it as a tool to post questions about case law while in a trial or ask for advice on how to make a persuasive closing argument.

john feighner Feighner

Meeting other attorneys on the listserv, Doehrman added, has helped him when seeking advice about appearing in courts around the state in counties where he may be unfamiliar with local rules or the way a judge runs trials in his or her courtroom.

For instance, he said members have shared with each other how judges in their counties handle pre-trial conferences, what judges expect in terms of evidence, how much time judges allow for voir dire, how much time attorneys have in certain courts for opening and closing arguments, and other parts of the process that might vary slightly from court to court due to local rules or the way judges manage their courts.

Feighner added that members of the new lawyers section also have many opportunities to learn from more seasoned attorneys in the organization, something he benefited from when he was first starting out and because his mentor, Sherrill William Colvin, suggested he join.

A second role of the ITLA is to submit amicus briefs for appeals of cases that have issues that could affect plaintiffs in similar cases. All ITLA members are encouraged to share cases with ITLA’s Amicus Committee that they think would deserve clarification in the form of an amicus brief from ITLA. Committee members also try to keep an eye on cases themselves. However, if a case is brought to the committee’s attention early on, there is a better chance that the committee will be able to address the issue and assign a member to write a brief that will meet the filing deadline, Doerhman said. Sometimes when committee members look for cases when they have time, by the time they find one on their own it may be too late to make the filing deadline.

“A lot of common law is refined and defined and expanded and explained at the appellate level,” Doerhman said. “We try to educate members that if they have a case that gets appealed and has an issue that goes beyond the facts, … those cases can have a wide application,” those should be shared with and reviewed by the Amicus Committee.

After the committee decides to submit an amicus brief, an ITLA member will volunteer to write and sign the brief, which is then approved by ITLA before it is submitted to an appellate court, he said.

“This organization is out there looking at the bigger issues,” he said. The amicus briefs ITLA submits can make a positive impact on the civil justice system, and members can be a part of that, he added.

One recent appeal involving an amicus brief submitted by ITLA was an adult wrongful death case, Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Beverly Brown, et al., No. 49A02-1001-CT-00080. It was transmitted on transfer Nov. 23, the last time the docket was updated before IL deadline.

Doehrman said the issue of interest to ITLA was whether attorney’s fees could be recovered in addition to other fees. If so, he said, plaintiffs could possibly recover more compensation than the current $300,000 cap allows.

Two Court of Appeals panels, including the panel in this case, determined attorney’s fees could be recovered, while another panel said they couldn’t be recovered.

The third goal of ITLA is to follow legislation at the state level that is relevant to trial lawyers. Doehrman and Feighner said it was too early to say what they expect for the 2011 session, but they will keep members informed.

Feighner added that there will be an executive committee retreat in February, where members will plan the legislative strategy based on bills that have been introduced by then. That retreat will also include discussions about board development and membership activities for the group’s 2011-12 schedule.

Feighner, who will become president at next spring’s annual meeting, said he planned to continue enhancements for membership, with a focus on attracting young lawyers and diverse members to the organization.•

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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