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Judge unsure about ACLU student chapter

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An Indianapolis-based federal judge wants to know more before he decides whether a student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has standing to seek class certification in a lawsuit against the Indiana Board of Law Examiners. At least one student alleges her constitutional rights are violated by questions on the bar exam application.

But the judge found that an Illinois attorney who wants to sit for the Indiana bar exam does have standing to seek class certification, and he's granted that status in this litigation while the issue involving the student chapter at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis remains open.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence on Friday issued a 10-page order in Amanda Perdue, et al. v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, 1:09-CV-842. In the past week, the ACLU of Indiana amended its complaint to include Perdue's real name after the judge had previously ruled that she couldn't proceed anonymously.

Perdue challenges the BLE requirement that she provide information about her physical and mental health when filling out her application to take the state bar exam. She'd answered "yes" in response to a question about her mental health, and as a result the BLE requested additional detail and referred her to the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program for a mental health review. Instead of consenting, Perdue withdrew her application and in July sued the state over the issue, alleging that some of the application questions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ACLU student chapter later joined her as a plaintiff to prevent the BLE from inquiring about future bar applicants' mental health. One student, the president of the student organization, signed on and said she was aware of at least one group member who intended to take the Indiana bar exam at some point and could be impacted by these questions.

Both parties requested class certification, but the state argued that the student chapter doesn't have standing to be a class representative in this case.

"As an initial matter, the Defendants vigorously argue that the ACLU is not an appropriate class representative.... Much of the Defendants' argument against the ACLU's role as a class representative appears to be an allegation that the ACLU lacks standing," the judge wrote. "The Plaintiffs Reply does not address this issue. Because the Court is presently unable to determine whether the ACLU has standing, the parties are ordered to brief this issue. Until the Court determines that the ACLU has standing, the Court will not address whether it is an appropriate class representative."

Judge Lawrence gave the ACLU three weeks to file a brief in support of its standing, and 14 days from then for the state to reply before he again considers the issue.

As for Perdue, the judge determined she met the standard required by Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure about class action status and that it should be granted. A hearing is set for March 12 in the case, but that date may be continued to a later time. The anticipated two-day trial is planned for April 2011.

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  2. 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!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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