ILNews

Restructuring revises coverage area for some pro bono offices

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In 2011, the Indiana Pro Bono Commission formed a redistricting committee to research whether the state pro bono districts should be reconfigured to mirror Indiana’s 26 judicial districts. The group recommended that instead, the districts should be realigned in a way that would better meet the needs of poor people in Indiana.

As of Jan. 1, Indiana has 12 pro bono districts, down from 14, which are now denoted by a letter rather than a number. Some district boundaries shifted – particularly those closest to Richmond and Terre Haute, whose districts were absorbed by surrounding offices. Some districts saw no change in the boundaries. But all saw a sharp decrease in funding from the year before, marking the third straight year of declining funds.

MORE FROM INDIANA LAWYER
For a look at the new pro bono districts, click here.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, 15.3 percent of Indiana’s population was living in poverty in 2010, up from 14.4 percent in 2009 and 12.9 percent in 2008. But during that same time, funding for pro bono services has been steadily dropping, and no one can predict when that downward trend may change.

Doing more with less

The boundaries of Pro Bono District C (formerly District 3) – the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana – have not changed, but its budget has. It received only $35,000 this year in funds from interest on lawyer trust accounts. That’s about 20 percent less than the $179,184 spent on personnel costs alone in 2009.

Terry McCaffrey, District C plan administrator, said that the district had to eliminate two jobs in 2010 to make up for budgetary reductions but that he did not expect further layoffs this year. He said a few other local grants will help supplement its budget and, so far, no programs or services have been cut. But McCaffrey said fundraising is going to be essential going forward.

“This is going to be a first-time effort for us, going to door-to-door asking attorneys for donations, but we’re optimistic,” he said.

In Bloomington, District H (formerly District 10) absorbed Clay, Putnam, Hendricks and Morgan counties in the statewide restructuring. Last year – before the addition of those four counties – one full-time and one part-time attorney served 683 people, plan administrator Diane Walker said.

In 2009, when the district still had an office manager, $82,141.06 was allocated to personnel costs. Total funding for 2012 is $79,000.

“We’re going to try to keep it our normal operation, but we’re going to have to do a lot more fundraising, grant-writing and appeals letters,” Walker said. “We’re going to be doing the same that other nonprofits do, which is fundraising and getting by on a prayer.”

Pro Bono District J (formerly District 12) – the Legal Volunteers of Southeast Indiana – wrote in its 2009 annual report and combined 2011 grant application: “Pro bono districts are being encouraged to seek other funding sources or to engage in fund-raising. While this is a pragmatic decision for some districts, it will be especially difficult to accomplish in District 12, where the plan administrator is part-time and the demands of intake, referral, record-keeping, and maintaining the business health of the program already demand more than part-time efforts.”

A group effort

In Evansville, the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana (District K) works in conjunction with two other pro bono providers to serve the people of Vanderburgh County.

“The technical word is collaborate, but we say we play well together,” said Beverly Corn, District K plan administrator.

Legal Aid Society of Evansville and Indiana Legal Services’ Evansville office predate District K (formerly District 13). Corn said those two offices already had a thorough, effective process for handling intake, so when her district opened, she saw no need to “reinvent the wheel” regarding intake.

LAS and ILS-Evansville combined have the administrative staff to handle intake for all three pro bono providers, Corn said. And almost every Friday since 2004, Corn has attended a group meeting at the invitation of ILS, where attorneys review cases and decide which would be best handled by a particular office.

Corn’s district now includes Sullivan and Vigo counties, and Vigo is a two-hour drive from Evansville. She said her district has sent letters of introduction to every member of the Sullivan and Vigo county bar associations to try to make new connections in those counties.

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be distance, and the second challenge is going to be, how do we handle referrals for those two counties, because from what I recall, they are served by the Lafayette office of ILS,” Corn said.

Corn said District K does not have the resources to handle its own intake for the additional counties, and she hopes to create some type of collaborative relationship with the ILS-Lafayette office akin to the current partnership with ILS-Evansville.

“Obviously, everybody got cut a little bit more this year, and that’s OK, we’re going to make it work, but I will not be able to travel back and forth to those northernmost counties on a regular basis due to budgetary concerns,” she said.•

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
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

ADVERTISEMENT