Leadership in Law 2014: Sue A. Shadley

Partner, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, Indianapolis • Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 1977

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15col-Shadley.jpg Sue A. Shadley (IL photo/Eric Learned)

There may not be any one person who has had more influence over the development of modern environmental law in Indiana than Sue A. Shadley. She served as an attorney and administrative law judge in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and was appointed the first chief legal counsel for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. She moved into private practice in 1988 when she, George Plews and George Pendygraft formed Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP. She has been a mentor to many at the firm and a strong advocate for women in the law. Sue retired at the end of 2013.

When you began practicing, the number of female lawyers was still relatively small. In the 1970s and 1980s, you held a number of key environmental positions for the state. Did you feel like you were breaking ground at the time?

Yes. I often felt like government was the only place a woman lawyer would be hired in 1977 when I graduated. I did work in developing new programs in surface coal mining and at IDEM, and it was very rewarding to be there at the beginning.

You’ve been inducted into the National Solid Waste Management Association’s Indiana Hall of Fame. How did you get into the practice area of solid and hazardous waste law?

My first job after 10 years working for the state in environmental programs was with Waste Management and Chemical Waste Management. The state was rewriting its solid waste rules for the first time in 12 years. I got very involved in the rule rewrite and did solid and hazardous waste law for my employer and continued to represent them when we started our law firm.

How has environmental law changed since you started practicing?

My area of solid waste has become very inactive. The companies have learned what they need to do; there are very few enforcement actions; the amount of disposal capacity has increased such that landfills are not expanding and do not need new permits.

What’s been the biggest change in the overall practice of law you’ve seen since you began?

It is the number of women attorneys.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

I cannot think of one. Environmental law has been so interesting because it involves so many other areas of law – property law, insurance, taxes, constitutional law, oral advocacy, civil procedure, criminal law. I believe I have used all the courses I took in law school.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I have traveled to Africa three times on game viewing vacations.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

No, I am thrilled with how my law career developed. I would not change a thing.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

Work in animal conservation.
Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Mary DiNunzio, law firm Rosato & Associates, author Lisa Scottoline.
What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Running my own restaurant in my hometown of Hillsboro, Ind., after my first year of college.
What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

I always worked very hard and very long hours. I sort of burned out, so I might tell myself to work hard, but try to limit my hours in order to not burn out.
What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

 I am not a good example. I worked 15-18 hour days. My husband worked hard also and we did not have children.  I did not balance work and life well at all.
We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practice?

Not that much. George Plews, who I started the firm with, is the nicest person and we have always emphasized being civil in our firm.
Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

It does not seem to be as bad in the environmental law field. I have always believed people wanted and appreciated what I could do for them.
What civic cause is the most important to you?

Helping Native Americans, which developed from reading Tony Hillerman books and traveling in the Southwest.



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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

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  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.