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Students help with tax prep; lecture discusses colleges' decisions

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Law School Briefs

Law School Briefs is Indiana Lawyer’s section highlighting news from law schools in Indiana. While IL has always covered law school news and continues to keep up with law school websites and press releases for updates, we gladly accept submissions for this section from law students, professors, alumni, and others who want to share law school-related news. If you’d like to submit news or a photo from an event, please send it to Rebecca Berfanger at rberfanger@ibj.com, along with contact information for any follow-up questions at least two weeks in advance of the issue date.

Students help withtax preparation

Students from the four Indiana law schools are participating in the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteers in Tax Assistance program during the 2011 tax season. The requirements to participate in the programs vary, and some programs may require agencies to refer clients to them. All four programs have students working directly with clients under supervision of their professors and tax attorneys. Clients must be low- to moderate-income, generally earning $49,000 or less per year.

In Bloomington, Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law and Kelley School of Business are teaming up for the VITA program. Walk-in clients can get advice at the law school, 211 S. Indiana Ave., Room 121, on Monday and Thursday evenings through March 10. Service is provided from 5 to 8 p.m.

Valparaiso University School of Law’s VITA program will provide tax assistance on Saturdays through April 9 at the law school’s student lounge, located at 656 S. Greenwich St., Valparaiso. More information and a form to schedule an appointment is on the school’s website at http://www.valpo.edu/law/vita/index.php.

Students at Notre Dame Law School volunteer in the United Way of St. Joseph County’s VITA program, according to professor Judith Fox, who teaches in that school’s legal aid clinic. Clients can make an appointment by calling the 211 helpline.

Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis students have also volunteered for the IRS’ VITA program to offer tax preparation assistance to low- and moderate-income residents. Their supervisor, law professor Carrie Anne Hagan, said several students are volunteering at VITA sites in the Indianapolis area this year.

Lecture focuses oncolleges’ decisions

Most decisions made by colleges and universities tend to be secretive, unless they rise to the level of public outcry and end up being reported by the media or if a lawsuit is filed making the information public record.

This has made it somewhat difficult for Michael A. Olivas, a law professor and director of the Institute of Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston, to do research on the topic of “Governing Badly: Theory and Practice of Bad Ideas in College Decisionmaking.” This was the subject of the annual Jerome Hall Lecture at Indiana University Maurer School of Law on Feb. 7, and the findings will be published in a future edition of Indiana Law Journal.

Olivas, president of the American Association of Law Schools, raised some interesting points about why he thinks that not only good policies, but also bad policies and bad decisions, should be explained. Doing so would provide a better understanding of how to make things better, he said.

He joked that bad decisions are difficult to find because one can’t simply do an Internet search for “bad decisions,” and there is no such thing as “baddecisions.com” to cite precedent for bad decisions in higher education.

Olivas focused his lecture on why he disagrees with legacy admissions, also known as the alumni provision, at public universities; examples of professors who wrongly lost their jobs when programs or courses were cut due to budget issues; and why studying poor decisions can ultimately help colleges make better decisions.

As for legacy admissions, he said that because a parent has gone to college, the applicant already has an advantage – even if the student’s parents didn’t go to that specific college – over other applicants who don’t have college-educated parents. College-educated parents may be better equipped to help their children in the application process and in other areas of college preparation, such as which classes to take in high school and SAT preparation.

Parents who did go to the college where their children want to apply might also have an “in” with contacts at the school’s department of admissions if they want to call for more information as to what the school is seeking in its potential students.

He didn’t say this advantage to students of college-educated parents was a bad thing, but that for public schools to weigh the legacy question heavily, which can sometimes make a big difference to a student who is applying, just doesn’t make sense.

An audience member asked if this was fair because of the idea that if an alumnus’ child is accepted, that alumnus may be more likely to donate funds to the school, especially when there is less funding from the state. Olivas said that still wasn’t enough of a reason for schools to favor those applicants.

Another issue he discussed involved schools firing professors because their programs were cut. He said these situations might not be cut-and-dry, but if a tenure-track professor was fired due to budget reasons, and then someone else was hired to teach similar or the same classes but with different names, that’s a bad decision.

He also said transparency is key in general to decisions made by colleges and universities. If everything is openly discussed, he’d have less of an issue with these decisions. In turn, the courts would likely have less of an issue when decisions led to court filings because judges and lawyers would know that the decisions were examined and made with good judgment.

At the time a bad decision is made, the decision maker likely doesn’t know he is making a bad decision, Olivas concluded. But to avoid similar bad decisions in the future, he added, they should be studied more.•

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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

  2. Wow, over a quarter million dollars? That is a a lot of commissary money! Over what time frame? Years I would guess. Anyone ever try to blow the whistle? Probably not, since most Hoosiers who take notice of such things realize that Hoosier whistleblowers are almost always pilloried. If someone did blow the whistle, they were likely fired. The persecution of whistleblowers is a sure sign of far too much government corruption. Details of my own personal experience at the top of Hoosier governance available upon request ... maybe a "fake news" media outlet will have the courage to tell the stories of Hoosier whistleblowers that the "real" Hoosier media (cough) will not deign to touch. (They are part of the problem.)

  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

  5. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

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