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Same court, new experience

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The jury began deliberating after lunch.

Attorney Alice Morical returned to her office on the 44th floor of the Chase Tower in Indianapolis to await the verdict, but she had no idea what the outcome would be. The plaintiff’s case had been well prepared, and the defendant had his motion for a directed verdict denied as well as two witnesses excluded by the judge.

Still, this was an Eighth Amendment case alleging cruel and unusual punishment, so the standard to find in favor of the plaintiff was very high.

Also, her client, plaintiff Robert Holleman, was a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

She described Holleman as “smart and thoughtful.” And while she surmised he had committed a serious crime because of the length of time he had been incarcerated, she did not ask for specifics and did not learn of his history until after the trial.

“It wasn’t relevant to what I was doing,” she said. “It didn’t even come up.”

il-alice-morical04-15col.jpg Alice Morical (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Morical, a partner at Hoover Hull LLP, was assisting the case pro bono as part of the Civil Trial Assistance Panel program at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. For pro se litigants who want help presenting their cases, the court looks to this program to provide attorneys to aid either during discrete parts of the legal action or assist with the entire process.

Once the court rejected the defendant’s petition for summary judgment and Holleman’s case against the prison physician was headed for trial, the court called upon the CTAP program. Morical agreed to help and met the litigant for the first time when she went to court to be appointed standby counsel.

“I’m fairly liberal,” Morical said. “Through working with business clients on litigation, I have learned things are seldom black and white. I don’t tend to be a very judgmental person. I certainly felt he was entitled to medical care while he was incarcerated.”

25 seconds

Prison is where Holleman prepared and filed his case.

After arriving at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility Aug. 2, 2006, Holleman submitted health care requests for kidney stone pain and irritable bowel problems. For the kidney stone, the prison doctor, Anwer Jaffri, ordered urine tests and prescribed antibiotics to counter a possible urinary tract infection. Holleman passed the stone Feb. 27, 2007 but did not see Jaffri until April 9, 2007. At that time, the inmate did not receive any treatment.

In his court filings, Holleman alleged the defendant, Jaffri, violated his right under the Eighth Amendment to be free from the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. He specifically alleged that Jaffri was “deliberately indifferent to his reported kidney stone pain in that Dr. Jaffri provided only delayed and ineffective treatment.”

Holleman filed his complaint in the Southern District in August 2008. He ushered the case through the system on his own.

Morical’s involvement started at a reception in the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse July 12, 2012. While attending the portrait unveiling for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John Tinder, Morical mentioned to U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson that she was looking for an opportunity to gain courtroom experience with a jury trial.

In her career, she had presented cases to a judge during bench trials, but she had never faced a federal jury.

Twenty-five seconds later, Magnus-Stinson had a suggestion when she saw a group of staff attorneys from the Southern District of Indiana staff attorney’s office walk through the door.

CTAP program

For at least 20 years, the staff attorney’s office has been helping to get lawyers in the CTAP program assigned to pro se cases. A judicial officer determines the litigants who could not only benefit from legal counsel but are also willing to accept assistance. The officer then sends the order to the staff attorney’s office.

Lawyers in good standing in the Southern District can volunteer by filling out an application. From that pool, the staff attorney’s office matches the lawyers’ backgrounds and schedules with the cases. The lawyer will always be given the choice of either accepting or declining the assignment.

“We’ve never gotten an order that we could not fulfill,” said Kristine Seufert, staff attorney with the Southern District of Indiana. “There are some that are harder to fill than others.”

In addition to CTAP, the Southern District Court also enlists pro bono attorneys to help pro se litigants in settlement conferences. The Mediation Assistance Program started in 2009 and uses volunteer attorneys to help prepare for the settlement conference as well as participate in the event and draft any resulting agreement.

Magnus-Stinson has a trial coming up that will use pro bono attorneys. Without CTAP and without lawyers donating their time, she said litigants could stumble over rules of evidence, rules of procedure and, consequently, not get their full due in court.

“We are so grateful for the help,” she said. “The people who are most grateful are the opposing counsel. (The pro bono attorney) makes the whole process go more smoothly.”

For Morical, agreeing to help Holleman required taking a leap of faith. She had not talked to him before she accepted the assignment, and she was stepping in after much of the preparatory work had been done. But this was the opportunity to do something different from what she did every day, and it was exciting to be involved in a jury trial.

In court

On Aug. 1, the trial began. The first day started with Morical reviewing the jury questionnaires and advising Holleman on jury selection. After the jury was seated, Holleman took the stand with Morical conducting the direct examination. Then a witness who had seen Holleman’s distress with the kidney stone testified.

At that point, the defense counsel moved for a directed verdict. Morical expected that and she has already conferred with Holleman that she would present the argument against. However, the judge delayed the motion until the end of day and then denied it once he heard the defense’s reasoning.

Next, Holleman handled the cross examination of Jaffri. The physician wanted to present two witnesses, but the court excluded them. After lunch on the second day, both sides presented their closing arguments and sent the case to the jury.

“It was good practical experience combined with an ability to do pro bono work,” Morical said. “It was a different experience in terms of working with someone who is incarcerated. The way it was different is what made it fun.”

Morical’s experience is typical, both Seufert and Magnus-Stinson said. Attorneys who assist on these cases feel like they have served the client, served the court and gained good experience.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve not had anyone express that it was a bad experience,” Seufert said. “I think a lot of people are excited to have done it.”

When the jury went into deliberations, Morical thought Holleman could win but the high standards for an Eighth Amendment case and odds for a plaintiff’s verdict did not make her overly confident.

Following an hour-and-a-half of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict. They found for the plaintiff and awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $15,000.

Reflecting on the trial, Morical remembered Holleman telling her he wanted the physician to know patients could not be treated badly. She said she is pleased to have been able to help him get that outcome.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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