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Proposal would create umbrella commission for legal aid providers

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A proposal before the Indiana Supreme Court could change the landscape for those who provide civil legal aid and pro bono service.

“In my opinion, what is needed in the state when you’re dealing with access to justice issues is a forum where all these different entities have an understanding of what the other entities are doing, what their purpose is, and what steps they’re taking to address certain problems,” Allen Superior Judge David Avery said.

Norm Metzger mug Metzger

Along with being vice chair of the Indiana Pro Bono Commission, Avery serves on a task force that developed a final recommendation for an Access to Justice Commission that the Indiana Supreme Court has been considering since July.

The proposal sprang from a workshop this year that brought together representatives of pro bono organizations, self-represented litigants, interpreters and other stakeholders. It built upon work done beginning in 2008 that examined the statewide need for civil legal services for the poor and disadvantaged – a need that has only grown as the economy worsened and resources dwindled.

By design, the commission proposed to the Supreme Court would not pre-empt organizations that currently provide services, Avery and others said. There was sensitivity to that because an unsuccessful proposal a couple of years ago would have shifted some of the Pro Bono Commission’s duties to the Access to Justice Commission that had been considered at that time.

This time, the approach is different.

“The establishment of the commission is not intended to replace the entities currently offering services promoting access to the civil legal system to the residents of Indiana,” the proposal says. “The commission shall cooperate with entities such as the Indiana Pro Bono Commission, Indiana Judicial Conference, Indiana Bar Foundation, Indiana State Bar Association, local bar associations, state and local civil legal aid organizations, legal self-help centers, pro bono legal service organizations and non-legal organizations.”

Click here to read the proposal.

Avery Avery

Norman Metzger, executive director of Indiana Legal Services Inc., said the commission would help cash-strapped agencies better coordinate resources and allocate services.

“There are going to be all kinds of gaps, and the question is, what do you do about the gaps?” Metzger said. “There’s an obvious need to figure out a way to administer those resources and bring those stakeholders together. We all have an obligation to manage our resources efficiently so we can be productive.”

The commission proposal aims to take a holistic picture of the state’s legal aid providers and those that work to ensure access to justice, but the panel would stop short of having a funding mechanism. Avery said removing funding decisions from the proposed commission would allow it to focus on policy and decision-making. He said the proposed makeup of the commission would raise awareness of legal aid needs and rally wider support.

access-facts.jpgIndiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson told Indiana Lawyer that the proposal was still under consideration and he could not say when the court might act.

Amy Roth is the plan administrator for Southern Indiana Pro Bono Referrals Inc., whose service district is Clark, Crawford, Floyd, Harrison, Orange, Scott and Washington counties.

She said she and her colleagues are hopeful that a new commission might address statewide needs, but they’re also cautious. “We are waiting to work through who’s going to be in charge and who gets what,” Roth said. “It’s very much an evolving situation.”

One of the first orders of business outlined for the proposed commission would be to develop a strategic plan for access to and delivery of legal services within a year of the commission’s initial meeting.

Roth said there are needs that will take statewide solutions, but the jury is out on whether the proposed commission might be the vehicle. Access to justice is unequal in rural counties. Clients in need in Crawford and Orange counties are an example.

“We had to make a very unpleasant decision that we simply could not serve them,” she said. There are few available attorneys in those counties, and the cost of gas means fewer lawyers are willing to volunteer to commute to English or Paoli from New Albany or Jeffersonville, for instance. Plus, those more populous areas already had more demand than the agency could meet, she explained.

Chuck Dunlap Dunlap

Funding to Roth’s pro bono district is down as much as 35 percent since 2008. “I understand funding will remain stable for 2013,” she said. “We are so beaten down that we say, ‘that’s wonderful.’”

Indiana Bar Foundation Executive Director Charles Dunlap said creating a commission would bring together policymakers as well as those not directly involved in legal services. Doing so, he believes, would raise awareness of the needs beyond those who already practice in the fields. A commission with a broad range of membership also would be able to rally for another level of resources, he said, whether legislatively or through private foundations and funders.

The bar foundation is taking a wait-and-see approach before filling a key vacant position, that of executive director of the Pro Bono Commission, which allocates funds from interest on lawyer trust accounts to the state’s 12 pro bono districts, according to Dunlap. Former director Monica Fennell in September took a position as pro bono director at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.

Dunlap said that position likely won’t be filled before the Supreme Court gives direction on the proposal. The position and its responsibilities could change based on what the court does.

Roth said she hopes a statewide retreat later this month will give providers more direction.

But tough times might be a unifying force.

“This is a really bad time for all funders,” Metzger said, noting his agency’s funding has declined from about $9 million to about $7.1 million in two years, forcing a retrenchment. “There are a whole variety of reasons why (the proposed commission) makes sense.”

Dunlap is encouraged by the broad consensus in favor of the proposal that emerged from the legal aid community. “Hopefully it’s sort of a preview of coming attractions, these folks working together.”•

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  1. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

  2. A high ranking bureaucrat with Ind sup court is heading up an organization celebrating the formal N word!!! She must resign and denounce! http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

  3. ND2019, don't try to confuse the Left with facts. Their ideologies trump facts, trump due process, trump court rules, even trump federal statutes. I hold the proof if interested. Facts matter only to those who are not on an agenda-first mission.

  4. OK so I'll make this as short as I can. I got a call that my daughter was smoking in the bathroom only her and one other girl was questioned mind you four others left before them anyways they proceeded to interrogate my daughter about smoking and all this time I nor my parents got a phone call,they proceeded to go through her belongings and also pretty much striped searched my daughter including from what my mother said they looked at her Brest without my consent. I am furious also a couple months ago my son hurt his foot and I was never called and it got worse during the day but the way some of the teachers have been treating my kids they are not comfortable going to them because they feel like they are mean or don't care. This is unacceptable in my mind i should be able to send my kids to school without worry but now I worry how the adults there are treating them. I have a lot more but I wanted to know do I have any attempt at a lawsuit because like I said there is more that's just some of what my kids are going through. Please respond. Sincerely concerned single parent

  5. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

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