Race for LACE supports Kenyan Legal Aid Clinic

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A few years after several Indianapolis judges and attorneys helped form a legal aid clinic in western Kenya, that clinic is thriving. Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Riley, a co-founder of the Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret, traveled there earlier this year to see progress being made and is encouraged that the Kenyan clinic recently received a grant to hire another attorney.

Locally, she and other supporters, including attorney Rebecca Shelton, are also helping to coordinate a fundraising effort, Race for LACE, which will occur during the 2011 Finish Line 500 Festival 5K, which takes place before the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon on May 7.

So far, Shelton said, eight law firms with Indianapolis-area offices have signed on at the $1,000 sponsorship level: Young & Young, Baker & Daniels, Ogletree Deakins, Taft Stettinius & Hollister, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun, Bose McKinney & Evans, Ice Miller, and Benesch/Dann Pecar.

lace Attorney Rebecca Shelton, right, assisted at Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret, Kenya, in 2009. She worked with attorney-advocate Milkah Cheptinga, left, and lawyer Avril Rua, center, now a student at IU School of Law - Indianapolis. The lion was a gift to Shelton. (Photo submitted)

While last year’s participants compared their 5K times with the Mini-Marathon time of runner and LACE supporter Janet Cherobon to determine how much money they would give to the program, this year participants are asked to pledge a flat amount to support the clinic.

Like last year, participants will have the opportunity to meet and have photos taken with Cherobon, who has won the women’s race four years in a row. She currently lives in Atlanta, Ga., but is originally from Kenya and still has family in the area, so she understands the importance of legal aid, Shelton said. View a Race for LACE promotional video made by Cherobon.

At least 20 LACE supporters ran the Race for LACE in 2010, and this year organizers hope to have at least 75 participants. To join the effort, sign up for the 5K. After registering, e-mail Shelton at, along with a pledge amount.

Anyone interested in sponsoring a law school student may do so by contacting Shelton. The registration fee is $35.

While organizers said they’d like to raise money with the event to help cover clinic costs – an attorney’s salary at the clinic is $10,000, which is in line with the starting salary of other attorneys in the area – they also hope to raise awareness by having runners wear bright red t-shirts during the race.

“As Indiana attorneys we (took an) oath that we will never reject ‘the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance,’” Shelton said via e-mail explaining why she encourages other Indiana attorneys to support LACE.

“There are many in Kenya who are defenseless and oppressed,” she continued. “The staff of LACE work very hard for very little to try to help Kenya move toward a more effective and productive justice system by helping one person at a time obtain justice. As Americans we are privileged to have the resources and opportunities that others don’t have. Thanks to AMPATH, Indiana already has a 20-year history with Eldoret and surrounding areas in Kenya, and we as attorneys can continue that beautiful relationship and make the world a better place.”

AMPATH, which stands for Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, is a partnership of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Moi University in Eldoret, and a consortium of North American universities led by Indiana University.

Like the relationship between the medical school at Moi University and Indiana University Medical School, which involves medical students from the schools working together, IU School of Law – Indianapolis has also been building a partnership with the law school at Moi University. Law students from Moi University help with the intake process at LACE, and IU School of Law – Indianapolis students have traveled to LACE to assist as well.

Shelton spent six weeks at the clinic in 2009 before a delegation of Indiana judges, attorneys, and professors visited that October, and she hopes to return with the next delegation, which will likely be in early 2012.

As for her involvement with the Race for LACE, she said, “I am an attorney turned stay-at-home mom who likes to run. I have personal friendships with the staff at LACE … where I made wonderful connections.”

While in Kenya, Shelton worked closely with Milkah Cheptinga, an attorney-advocate who can represent clients in court; lawyer Avril Rua, who is currently studying law at IU School of Law – Indianapolis and will eventually return to Kenya; and LACE administrative assistant, Irene Waringa. While Shelton could not represent LACE’s clients in court, she did help with intake forms and questions for clients.

During her visit in early 2011, Judge Riley also met with LACE staff, as well as Vincent Mutai and Eric Gumbo, attorneys on LACE’s board.

On this and every visit since the clinic started in October 2008, Judge Riley has seen firsthand the impact LACE has on patients at the AMPATH hospital, and she hears from the staff at LACE how busy they are. Typically, the clinic will take on 65 cases per month, and it is often forced to turn away other clients.

Thanks to a grant from the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, LACE has been advertising to fill two new positions at the clinic – an administrative assistant and attorney. While space is tight at the hospital where LACE is currently housed, new space will soon be available for the clinic to serve more people.

The staff at LACE has adjusted the types of cases it handles to meet the needs of its clients. It now works with victims of rape and sexual assault on criminal cases. In the clinic’s early days, the staff primarily handled civil legal issues such as land trust and estate matters. One of the more common issues involved widows and orphans unjustly losing their property when the male head of household had died of AIDS, and his family tried to reclaim the property as its own.

Even in those situations, Judge Riley said, once the people breaking the law are made aware that what they are doing is wrong according to the country’s constitution, they typically comply.

Judge Riley has noticed many changes in Eldoret. The political landscape is changing, she observed, as well as the physical landscape. Read more in her blog posts from Kenya.

Fran Quigley, a co-founder of LACE, associate director of AMPATH, and visiting professor at IU School of Law – Indianapolis, has also been to Eldoret many times and hopes to return this summer.

Like Shelton and Judge Riley, Quigley supports the Race for LACE and encourages other Indiana attorneys to do the same.

“Our Kenyan colleagues obtain justice immediately for clients who are poor and discriminated against, and also work to develop an expectation of justice for all of the people of Kenya,” he wrote via e-mail. “Plus, our dollars go much farther in Kenya due to lower professional salaries and litigation and public education costs. All of that means that a donation supporting LACE packs as much impact as any charitable gift ever could.”

Quoting Kenyan attorney Gumbo in terms of where the clinic is headed, Judge Riley added, “The sky is the floor.”•


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.