ILNews

Pro bono districts hire new plan administrators

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

With almost half of the pro bono districts losing plan administrators since mid-2009, it is not going to be an easy job to replace the institutional knowledge of the outgoing plan administrators. Districts 2, 3, 6, 9, 11, and most recently 7 have been forced to tackle that task.

District 2, based in South Bend and also known as the Volunteer Lawyer Network, was able to find its replacement in-house. A previous plan administrator had stayed on as a staff member and has again taken over the responsibilities of the job.

As for the other five districts that have lost plan administrators in the last two years: District 3 based in Fort Wayne, also known as the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana, hired its current plan administrator in late 2009; District 6 Access to Justice, based in New Castle, hired its current plan administrator in summer 2009; District 7 Pro Bono Corporation, based in Terre Haute, is in the process of searching for a new administrator; Whitewater Valley District 9 Pro Bono Commission, based in Richmond, reports being close to hiring a new plan administrator; and Legal Aid – District Eleven, based in Columbus, just hired a new plan administrator who started Jan. 24.
 

Monica Fennell Fennell

While it’s never easy to lose someone, especially if that person has the institutional knowledge to know exactly which volunteers are willing and able to take on specific types of case, or who among the other plan administrators has the expertise to help with specific cases, clients, or volunteers, Indiana Pro Bono Commission executive director Monica Fennell said she has been impressed with the caliber of new plan administrators.

“No one gets into it for the money. These are good, hard-working people who are used to working with people who are low-income,” Fennell said. “They often are attorneys or have legal experience, and if they don’t, they already have experience in social services or volunteer work.”

To get them up to speed, Fennell said she works closely with the new plan administrators as soon as possible. For instance, she met with the new plan administrator for District 11 and executive director of Legal Aid – District Eleven, Alaina Sullivan, during her first week in the office.

“As soon as a district lets me know they’ve hired someone new, I go and meet with them,” Fennell said.

Among the discussion is Rule 6.6, which oversees the pro bono districts. She encourages new plan administrators to read and study this rule if they haven’t already.

She said they then go over a calendar together to discuss when reports are due, when budgets and grant applications are due, and when funds are allocated. That is especially important this year because budgets are being distributed on a quarterly basis instead of all at once.

Fennell also offers the IPBC’s help in terms of public relations and marketing. Plan administrators, she explained, sometimes need coaching on how to talk to their local media outlets “to get their stories out there” about what the volunteers are doing. She also provides information about pro bono plan administrator retreats, and she encourages plan administrators to work and communicate with each other regularly. Fennell refers plan administrators to others who she thinks would be a good resource when questions or complicated issues surface.

Plan administrators are also encouraged to consider volunteers they would like to nominate for annual awards given by the Indiana Bar Foundation, to participate in the ISBA’s annual Talk to a Lawyer Today event, to have IPBC or IBF representatives speak to local bar associations about what the pro bono districts do, and to learn other ways to recruit attorneys to volunteer.

“We also talk about intake,” she said. “When someone calls, you need to make sure you know the income eligibility guidelines, the kinds of cases you can take, and the kinds of cases you don’t take. If you can’t take a case, what are their other options?”

Sullivan, who interned for the IPBC when she was in law school and her last name was Byers, said Fennell has been helpful in answering her questions and that she is looking forward to the opportunity.

“I learned about the position on the state bar website and I applied that day,” she said. “The real reason I chose to apply for this job was I went into the law to help people, and I feel as an attorney I’m honored to work for an agency that gives access to the legal system for those who can’t pay for an attorney or don’t understand their case or legal system. I think it’s important for lawyers to understand that role.”


Scott Wylie Wylie

R. Scott Wylie has served as a co-plan administrator for District 13, based in Evansville and also known as the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana, since 2006. He voiced similar reasons for wanting to be a plan administrator.

“It’s such a privilege to have this kind of job. Everyone in the legal system admires what you do. You are their charity. When it gets difficult, especially in times like these when we’re cutting back, the work is something to be proud of and that gives you motivation. … Even attorneys who don’t know me well, because of what I do, they respect me for that and are proud of this work,” he said.

Wylie observed that with the decrease in budget, attorneys have continued to step up to volunteer, perhaps more so than in the past.

In mid-December, District 13 had almost a dozen cases left to assign. After Wylie sent an e-mail, “in one day, in one day, we placed every remaining case,” he said. “If I had 20 wills, I could have placed 20 more wills. If I had five more guardianships, I could have placed five more guardianships.”

While he said he could have probably placed those cases normally, having such an instantaneous response made it the “best day of placement we ever had.”

Another newer plan administrator, Terry McCaffrey of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana, also said he has felt welcome since he started in late 2009.

As for advice for new plan administrators, McCaffrey said, “When you’re new, you inherit the reputation of the program. If things need to be changed, you look into what could be done … to try to make it better and easier for the volunteers and the clients.”

McCaffrey and Wylie said Fennell and the other plan administrators are always supportive of each other, as are their boards and attorney volunteers.

“Due to the changes in staffing and how many hours staff members are working, I imagine this will be a fairly unstable period until we get bigger interest rates and more funding as a result,” Wylie said, adding the IPBC has been “supportive to keep things as stable as possible.”

Sullivan expressed some concern about the current budget but is remaining optimistic about the future of her program.

“I have no doubt things will come back around and we’ll work our way through it,” she said, adding the board has also been helpful in working with her.

“I look forward to working with the attorneys in these five counties, meeting individuals in the community, and getting our organization more widely recognized,” she said. “I’m really excited to be here and can’t wait to see what the next few years bring.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  2. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  3. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

ADVERTISEMENT