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Moving a law library, maintaining accessibility

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What could have been a tragic end to a law library in central Indiana at the end of 2009 will be a new beginning in 2010.

The Marion County Law Library, which had been located in the City-County Building, closed its doors due to budget cuts Dec. 31. But in early 2010, some of the materials from that law library will be moved to the Central Branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library just a few blocks away in downtown Indianapolis, 40 E. St. Clair St., the court announced.

The IMCPL will be more convenient to most users, said Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch, who has been a key player in the decision to partner with IMCPL. Judge Welch has served as the supervising judge for the county's law library and currently serves as the civil term chairperson.

Library patrons will not be restricted to the operational hours of the City-County Building, which is closed on weekends, and will have easier access to parking in the library's underground garage, she added.

The central library's regular hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The courthouse law library hours were 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Judge Welch said it was through a friend of hers on the library foundation board for IMCPL that she was able to get in touch with chief executive officer Laura Bramble and discuss possibilities for the law library. That happened in October 2009 when she first learned the court's budget wouldn't cover the library.

The partnership will include access to the law library's materials at the central branch, as well as training for librarians to have an increased awareness of the Indiana Supreme Court's Web site for pro se litigants, which will be accessible via computers at the various library branch locations.

When it comes to updating materials, which will be costly depending on what will be updated, Bramble said the library will work with the court in the future to determine the best way to do this. She said the library might ask members of the library foundation for their support, as well.

Those who reference the materials at the public library will also have access to brochures, free Internet access via a computer and wireless Internet connection, printer and copier services, and a copy of a DVD specifically for pro se litigants.

Bramble also planned to work with Judge Welch on access to courthouse staff, knowing that the law library's librarian would be able to call others in the courthouse for help with forms if there were any questions that came up on a regular basis.

Part of the training for IMCPL librarians will include knowing the difference between helping someone and unauthorized practice of law, Judge Welch and Bramble both said.

"We're not lawyers, so we can't help them fill out their forms," Bramble said, "but we can help them find the forms online."

She added that librarians at the branch libraries will also need a basic understanding of how the Supreme Court's pro se Web site works, but added many of the librarians already know due to past requests for help from patrons.

For those who go to the City-County Building looking for legal materials or are already there for a case, Judge Welch said there will be a pro se center with pamphlets and other materials for pro se litigants.

She said the typical pro se litigant who used the law library had a family law issue such as divorce, paternity, custody, or child support, and that information will still be accessible at the City-County Building but more materials will be available at the public library.

There are also other law libraries in the area, including Ruth Lilly Law Library at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis, which is open to the public but most of its materials must be viewed in the library (http://indylaw.indiana.edu/library/); and the Indiana State Library at 315 W. Ohio St. in Indianapolis also has some reference materials that might be valuable for legal research.

Around the state, other county law libraries continue to operate.

The Vanderburgh County Law Library was recently praised in the Evansville Bar Association's November 2009 newsletter by EBA President Shawn Sullivan.

Sullivan wrote about using the library when he recently needed to look up the 1933 version of a statute to compare it to the current one.

That information wasn't available through his firm's online resources, but he was able to find it at the law library with the help of law librarian Helen Reed, who has been with the library since 1985.

He added that the law library was one of the EBA's original goals when it was established in 1911, and that dues from the EBA's members still support the library by helping to fund the Vanderburgh Law Library Foundation, founded in 1982.

The St. Joseph County Law Library's budget was slashed a few years ago by the county, but the library is still open. St. Joseph County Bar Association executive director Amy McGuire helps run the library, but she is limited to what she can do because of her other duties and because she is only there part-time. The library is open the same hours as the courthouse.

McGuire said she still sees a number of pro se litigants use the library's materials, but that the library also serves as a meeting place for lawyers, and she has seen lawyers and court staff visit the library to look up information during trials.

She added that when the budget was significantly cut a few years ago, the materials could not be updated. But after hearing a number of complaints, she and attorneys on the bar association's board decided to raise the membership dues to cover updates for the most-used materials.

She has referred patrons to Notre Dame Law School's library, which is also open to the public.

While Bramble said she was sad to hear about the law library closing in Marion County, she said the partnership was a natural fit because library patrons were already asking reference librarians for help with legal issues on a daily basis. In fact, reference librarians would frequently refer patrons to the law library at the courthouse.

"It has given a lot of great service to the residents of Marion County, and there is a great need for this service," she said. "We'll get a substantial portion of the collection and it will help our patrons. ... No staff will be devoted only to those materials, but ... in the future, Judge Welch and I will be working together to enhance the library staff's ability to handle questions and to help the citizens who need that sort of help."

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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