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Order affirms delinquent fee waivers

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The Indiana Supreme Court issued an administrative order Tuesday allowing the executive secretary of the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and the executive director of the Indiana Commission on Continuing Legal Education to continue to grant waivers to attorneys for delinquent fees and reinstatement fees assessed pursuant to Admission & Discipline Rules 23(21) and 29(7).

The waivers may be granted upon a written showing of good cause and upon such grounds are just and proper under the circumstances. If the executive director and executive secretary can't agree upon the disposition of any waiver request, it will be submitted to the chief justice for final action. Joint decisions of the executive secretary and executive director are final and unappealable.

The order continues a policy that's been in place since 1999. In the mid-1990s, the Supreme Court changed a rule that previously had allowed inactive lawyers to not pay annual registration fees, said Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary Donald Lundberg. The policy revision allowed inactive attorneys to pay half the regular active registration fee instead, and a notice was sent to impacted attorneys.

"But we knew there'd be an unknown group of lawyers that we were convinced were out there and wouldn't get this notice," Lundberg said. "So, going on, we knew we'd be liberal on waiving fees for any inactive lawyers coming out of the woodwork."

Most of those inactive attorneys were suspended in 2005 and the 1999 administrative order let the Disciplinary Commission and Commission on Continuing Legal Education consider waiving those registration fees on a case-by-case basis. Lundberg said at one point, the court considered the fee waiver requests, but the administrative task was delegated to Lundberg and Julia Orzeske, executive director of the Commission on CLE.

In addition to requests for wavier from inactive attorneys, Lundberg said they've received requests from active attorneys facing extraordinary circumstances, like bankruptcy or health emergencies that may warrant a waiver of the fees due by Oct. 1. The offices don't officially track the numbers, but Lundberg said they receive about two dozen requests from active lawyers each year and between 10 and 20 percent are granted. Only a handful of inactive attorneys ask for the waiver and most of those are granted.

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