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. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  2. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  3. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  4. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  5. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

ADVERTISEMENT