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Registration goes online

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Entering the 21st century is no longer optional for Indiana lawyers. When it comes to attorney registration, paper forms are history to make way for a new web portal.

The Indiana Appellate Clerk’s Office unveiled a new site Aug. 1 that overhauls the way lawyers and judges pay their annual registration fee, manage trust accounts, designate surrogate attorneys, and update contact information. The new paperless system is the first step in a planned three-phase initiative. The change, which impacts every licensed lawyer in the state, will ultimately allow attorneys to pay for continuing legal education online. The new system will ease the legal community’s ability to navigate the Roll of Attorneys process and save the state judiciary time and money.

portal Indiana Roll of Attorney administrator Darla Little and Appellate IT Director Robert Rath show off a new web portal unveiled Aug. 1, allowing attorneys to pay their annual registration fee and update contact information online. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The court estimates that within two years, offerings will also include a revamped online docket that allows hyperlinks for certain court records and a free subscription tool to follow appeals based on judge, county, attorney, or even case type.

“This gives attorneys a much easer way both to do their annual registrations and certifications and to keep their Roll of Attorney contact information current throughout the year,” Appellate Clerk Kevin Smith said. “This impacts every attorney in the state, and I know from a clerk’s office perspective it will allow us to be much more efficient and make much better use of our limited resources.”

Until now, a pre-printed annual registration statement form was mailed to the 20,706 active and inactive attorneys inside and outside of Indiana, in accordance with Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 2(g). The court rule requires the appellate clerk to send that notice Aug. 1 alerting attorneys about their upcoming dues deadline in two months, and anything more would be a courtesy. A graduated fine schedule begins if dues aren’t paid within 15 days, and a final notice about the non-compliance is sent at year’s end. Smith said the following spring, the clerk’s office notifies attorneys who haven’t paid their dues or completed annual CLE credits that they face license suspension if those obligations aren’t met, and the next notice an attorney would receive is from the Supreme Court ordering discipline for not paying dues or having the required CLE.

With this new portal, statements will no longer be mailed. This is the final year that will occur, according to Smith. Payments will only be accepted by credit card or e-check online. Cash or paper checks will no longer be accepted.

Coincidentally, attorneys’ annual registration fees are rising by $15 this year after the Indiana Supreme Court ordered that increase July 28. They are rising from $130 to $145, and there are corresponding changes in that amount to delinquency fees if the fees aren’t paid on time. The annual Continuing Legal Education fee will also rise from $30 to $45.

The order signed by Acting Chief Justice Steven H. David had concurrences from three of his colleagues on the bench, except for Justice Robert Rucker, who dissented to the registration fee increase.

Indiana has been tied with Maryland as being the least-expensive states in the country for annual registration fees, even after the 2010 increase that upped the amount from $115 to $130. Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said this hike is not connected to the new online attorney registration portal and is coincidental. Annual fees pay for specific items such as CLE, Disciplinary Commission, and Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program services while the new registration docket is paid for through the court budget.

The new portal has been in development for the past year, but the concept has been years in the making, according to appellate IT chief Robert Rath who took that newly created position in 2009 and started exploring what ways the state’s court system and appellate clerk’s office could go paperless. They specifically began working on this paperless Roll of Attorneys a year ago, Rath said.

Attorneys will initially need to set up an individual account through the new portal at the clerk of courts website http://courts.IN.gov/cofc/. From there, they can navigate the prompts.

Starting Sept. 1, a delegation option will be available at the online portal allowing lawyers to designate administrative assistants, paralegals, bookkeepers, or others to access and change the information and make annual fee payments. This might be especially beneficial for large law firms, Smith said, where one person is often given that task on behalf of practicing attorneys in the firm.

Notifications will appear on the online portal alerting an attorney if he hasn’t paid his dues, and the system will also be able to send an email a few days before Oct. 1 as a reminder, Smith said. Specific figures aren’t kept on the number of attorneys who don’t pay by Oct. 1, but Smith estimated about 10 to 15 percent receive those letters following the first deadline.

“The hope is that it will result in attorneys being able to go online at any time to do this and they won’t wait or forget as might happen if they had to mail something in to us,” he said.

All future annual notices will be sent to the email address provided for the Roll of Attorneys, and the clerk’s office says attorneys should make sure spam filters are set to allow for any emails with the domain @courts.IN.gov.

Smith said this would save the state courts money far beyond the $11,180 spent annually on mailing and printing costs. Staff time that would otherwise be devoted to mailing and receiving forms, reviewing documents, inserting that information into the system, and specific contact with lawyers because of that paper-based method will be reduced.

The new portal will likely lead to much more efficiency in the appellate clerk’s office, and updates will be instantaneous rather than having to wait for someone to update that information by hand, Smith said.

This change comes at a time when many states are moving to a paperless system for discovery, filing, or both. All federal courts require e-filing and have a comprehensive pay-for docket system online, and more than half the states have made initial progress toward enabling those similar options for the practicing bar and general public.

Indiana hasn’t made the move to e-filing at this point, nearly four years after the Indiana Supreme Court withdrew an amendment it had made in September 2007 requiring all appellate briefs and court documents to be filed electronically starting January 2008. But within a month of making that change, the justices issued a second order striking the change to Appellate Rule 43(K) and saying it had been “inadvertently included” in the earlier order.

Nothing has happened on that appellate e-filing topic since then, even though Rath came on board about two years ago to focus on that and related IT issues.

But by the middle of 2012, Rath says the state will strengthen the online docket to include hyperlinks for appellate decisions and certain court records, such as attorney disciplinary decisions or case-specific orders and special judge assignments. The clerk’s office won’t be able to include that access retroactively.

Eventually, the vision is for attorneys and appellate judges to be able to read all case documents on a laptop in court rather than having to flip through pages of paper, and that Indiana’s appellate courts will have a way to tie into the statewide Odyssey system.

The Indiana General Assembly didn’t provide any additional funding during the 2011 budget session for an Appellate Case Management System – a project that Rath has been exploring since he took the job – but this new three-phase online upgrade for the clerk’s office is putting some of those smaller pieces in place.

Many Indiana attorneys welcome this new online access for registration and lawyer-specific information and are looking forward to the grander e-system implementation.

Indianapolis attorney Brian Paul with Ice Miller, who’s served on an appellate court e-filing committee, says the entire legal community should welcome e-filing because it will make the system more efficient and save judges and lawyers time, as well as save litigants money.

“It’s important that non-lawyers have ready, inexpensive access to court documents; they deserve to know how their courts are being used and operated,” he said. “The fact is the switch to electronic filing and docketing is inevitable.  We might as well embrace the technology now.”•
 

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  1. 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.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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