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Judge nixes non-attorney’s attempt to join class action

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A federal judge says that a non-attorney who wants to work for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana or as a local public defender can’t join an already-pending class-action lawsuit that challenges the state’s Board of Law Examiners and its questions about applicants’ mental health history.

The entry comes in the case of Amanda Perdue, et al. v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, No. 1:09-CV-0842, which the ACLU of Indiana filed last year in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana. The case boils down to accusations that the Indiana bar examination application violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because of certain mental health questions. The plaintiffs are an Indiana woman who is admitted to practice in Illinois but wants to practice in her home state, as well as the student ACLU chapter at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis where individuals could be impacted by the controversial questions.

The court ruled in May that applicants’ privacy concerns outweighed the need for the BLE to obtain any additional mental health information in discovery, and U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has since been assigned the case and is currently considering whether to re-examine that discovery ruling.

During the past month or so, Indianapolis resident Robert M. Shaw – who the court docket says is representing himself pro se – filed motions to join the suit and obtain an injunctive order allowing him to work for the ACLU or Marion County Public Defender’s Office without any interference from the BLE.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker in June dismissed a case that Shaw filed earlier in the year that sought a court order to practice law in the state. Shaw alleged that his reporting of an alleged illegal act by a California state bar member damaged his reputation there and led Indiana officials to “blacklist” him here.

In that suit, Shaw noted that he’d applied for positions with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and in Marion County as a public defender but was turned down.

Specifically, Shaw contends in both that dismissed suit and in the latest filings in the Perdue case that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the New Mexico case of Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners, 353 U.S. 232 (1957), held that states can’t infringe on someone’s due process rights by excluding them from practicing law.

In his most recent court filing, Shaw wrote that the plaintiffs in this case are “not untrained, and have all been educated in law and are simply seeking to earn a living. The Plaintiff should be able to do that without any interference from the Indiana Board of Law Examiners and the Plaintiff seeks (an) injective order to prohibit the Indiana BLE from any retaliatory act.”

But Judge Pratt noted that Shaw didn’t state or suggest that he falls within the class membership for the Perdue case and denied his request to join. She also denied his injunctive order request.

A phone number for Shaw listed on the federal docket has been disconnected, and he could not be immediately reached for comment.

The issues Shaw raised in his litigation echo claims made in another federal case pending before Judge Barker. In that case, the plaintiff wants to take the bar exam without going to law school and claims Admission Rule 13 – detailing the educational requirements to sit for the bar exam – violates his rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. That case is Clarence K. Carter v. Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court for the State of Indiana, et al., No. 1:10-CV-0328, and last week Judge Barker declined the state’s motion to dismiss.
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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