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Man loses challenge to denial of admission to Indiana bar

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A Kansas attorney who was denied admission to join the Indiana bar can’t bring his suit against various state actors in federal court because of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Bryan K. Brown, who was a practicing attorney in Kansas before moving to Indiana, sought admission to practice here. The Indiana Board of Law Examiners referred Brown to the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program for an evaluation. He was eventually denied admittance because he couldn’t demonstrate good moral character and fitness under Admission and Discipline Rule 12.

Brown appealed the decision to the Indiana Supreme Court, which left the BLE’s decision intact. The Supreme Court of the United States denied Brown’s petition for certiorari. He then brought a suit in federal court against JLAP, Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and other state actors alleging federal and state constitution violations. Brown believed he was being prevented from joining the Indiana bar because of his religious beliefs.

Judge Theresa Springmann dismissed the suit, finding the claims were barred under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because they were inextricably intertwined with the Indiana Supreme Court’s adjudication of his bar application and finding that his as-applied challenges to Admission and Discipline Rules were unripe. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

“Because Brown’s claims of religious bias require a federal district court to review the judicial process followed by the Indiana Supreme Court in deciding the merits of Brown’s bar admission application, Brown’s claims are ‘inextricably intertwined’ and fall squarely under Rooker-Feldman’s jurisdictional bar,” wrote Judge Richard Cudahy in Bryan J. Brown v. Elizabeth Bowman, et al., No. 11-2164. “Further, a simple reading of Brown’s complaint shows that his religious discrimination claims in district court are essentially the same arguments he made to the Indiana Supreme Court.”

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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