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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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