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Pipeline programs to improve diversity

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When high school students don’t know attorneys or judges, it’s less likely they’ll know how to become attorneys or judges. This is particularly true in urban neighborhoods.

To counter that, diversity pipeline programs are being created to encourage more ethnic and racial diversity in the legal profession.

This is the case with at least two schools in Indiana that have dedicated programs to law and public policy. These programs tend to build on existing programs such as teen courts, mock trials, We the People mock congressional hearings, and internships and part-time work opportunities in law offices and courts. However, Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy in Indianapolis and the Randall T. Shepard Academy for Law and Social Justice in Evansville take the idea a step further, having a specific academic focus on legal issues.

Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy started enrolling students in grades 6 through 9 for the 2009-10 school year. The ninth-graders stayed in the school and started 10th grade during the 2010-11 school year, and they will continue at Shortridge through graduation. The school will accommodate grades 6 through 12.
 

civics-15col Students in the Street Law class at Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy in Indianapolis discuss advertisements with professionals from Baker & Daniels and Eli Lilly & Co. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Many students in the program have already expressed an interest in becoming lawyers or working in the legal profession. There are a number of opportunities, including a program modeled off a Marion County teen court program, Reach for Youth, that allows students to get a taste of what the profession is like by acting as defense attorneys and prosecutors for their classmates involved in disciplinary matters.

Teacher Alene Smith is judge of the “sentencing court,” she explained. Freshmen and sophomores are eligible for jury duty for these cases.

Smith added the school also works with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department cadet training, and those students serve as bailiffs for the court cases and as ambassadors for the school.

While the court is for minor offenses, Smith said students also have the option to ask for a mediation with their teachers for issues involving grades.

Working with partners

To get a head start on college, beginning next year, juniors will have the opportunity to take classes for college credit from Butler University, a partner with the school. Students will be able to earn up to 30 college credit hours.

The school has also partnered with Baker & Daniels and corporate attorneys at Eli Lilly as part of the national Street Law Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program, based in Silver Spring, Md. The attorneys working on this program in Indianapolis received a law-related education award at the Oct. 15 Randall T. Shepard Award Dinner.

That program, required for all sophomore students, is taught by Smith. Three days a week, teams of attorneys from B&D and Eli Lilly visit the students and teach them different legal concepts.

For instance, on Oct. 29, at the end of the eighth week of the program, the topic was “what is legal in advertising.” Five legal professionals – Chris Scanlon and Matthew Bahl of Baker & Daniels, and Michael Hulka, Jodie Mitchell, and Karen Flaherty of Eli Lilly – each worked with small groups of students.


civics02-15col Matt Bahl explains a case where a woman filed suit because Crunch Berries didn’t contain real fruit. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

To start, attorney Bahl showed the class a box of Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berry cereal. He then explained that in a law suit involving the company that makes the cereal, a woman claimed that it was false advertising because the cereal did not contain real fruit.

The judge dismissed the claim, Bahl said, because the company showed the product on the box, which clearly did not contain real berries. The box also did not claim that the cereal contained real berries. He added that the judge also likely dismissed the claim because “a reasonable consumer” would understand that the sugary cereal bits were not real berries.

Following the various definitions of advertising and what is or isn’t allowed, attorneys in the small groups went over real magazine and billboard ads with the students. The students were asked if the ads were legal.

One of the ads was for the chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella.

In the group led by Scanlon, he described it as a “chocolate goo” that his daughter likes, and he asked the students if they thought what basically appeared to be a “chocolate sandwich,” like the Nutella on bread in the photo, was as nutritious as the ad claimed.

The students agreed that the ad wasn’t lying by stating that there was no artificial color or preservatives in the product and by claiming it’s made from all natural ingredients and includes Vitamin E. However, the students did offer that the ad was possibly misleading and should include some kind of language stating that Vitamin E is one of many essential vitamins.

Scanlon observed that all the students in his group, who he has worked with throughout the semester, are bright and pretty quick to add to the discussion. He also said they tend to ask good questions and grasp the concepts fairly quickly.

In addition to working with lawyers in the classroom, students follow a textbook and Smith administers tests based the interaction with lawyers and textbook topics.

Smith said that so far things were going well with having 30 attorneys and 10 paralegals helping with the program.

Ultimately, Smith said she would like for students to have internship opportunities with the attorneys, especially because most of them would like to be lawyers some day.

At the end of this semester, students will take a field trip to Eli Lilly. While there, they will present on various legal topics and meet with attorneys with different backgrounds.

Next semester, Smith said, the students will focus on criminal law. Marion County Public Defender Bob Hill will be involved with the class at that time, as will Kelly Rota-Autry, IPS district discipline adjudicator.

Another program, the Shepard Academy in Evansville, started earlier this year. For now, it includes 22 juniors and next year will include 50 to 70 juniors and seniors, said Staci Herrin, the Social Studies and Fine Arts Department chair at Harrison High School where the academy is located. Juniors will continue in the program as seniors next year.

Unlike the Indianapolis school, students attend the academy only in the morning and spend the rest of the day at their regular schools. However, about two-thirds of the academy students attend Harrison High School for the full day, Herrin said.

The academy classes fulfill the students’ requirements for English and social studies classes, including political science, social justice, advanced speech, leadership, economics, government, law education, and international relations.

Students at Shepard Academy also receive hands on experience, such as panel discussions with members of the Evansville legal community, opportunities to watch appellate arguments online, and other experiences that incorporate social justice issues they discuss in class.

All but four of Herrin’s students worked at the polls on Nov. 2, she said, and many volunteered for a candidate or a party.

“The important thing with our kids is to give them the real life experience and to hear from people who do it every day,” she said. The academy is also in the process of adding a mentoring program where each student would be paired with a member of the Evansville legal community.

The academy is named for Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, who graduated from Harrison High School in 1965.

While it is too early to know if these programs will produce lawyers – each has yet to have a graduating class of seniors – pipeline diversity programs have been successful in exposing more students to legal careers.

“They get to see that the law is more than what they see on TV,” Smith said.•

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  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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