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Indiana Lawyer Focus

Admission ceremony for new lawyers weaves together feelings of joy and responsibility

The details of the day fade like all memories do, but attorneys do not forget the pomp, the circumstance and the feeling of going through the Indiana Supreme Court Admission Ceremony and taking the oaths of the courts.

Admission-15col.jpg New lawyers participate in the Indiana Supreme Court Admission ceremony Oct. 15 in Indianapolis. Oaths were administered for state and federal courts.(Photo courtesy Vincent Morretino/ISBA)

Twice a year, once in May and again in October, the Indiana Supreme Court holds a session to administer the oath to new attorneys. The session has evolved from the group of applicants being crowded into a courtroom to a grand ceremony complete with a processional of all the new lawyers, inductions and remarks by judges from the state court and federal circuit and, of course, the oath for the state courts as well as the oaths for the U.S. District Court’s Southern and Northern Indiana districts.

Retired Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard said the pageantry serves two functions. One, it congratulates the individuals who have passed the bar exam and, two, it reminds everybody that what lawyers are allowed to do is a real privilege as well as important in the lives of citizens.

“I think it emphasizes the importance that the system of the judiciary represents in American society,” he said.

TaKeena Thompson, associate at Cohen & Malad LLP, remembers a flood of feelings from her admission ceremony in October 2009. She was excited to recognize applicants who sat around her during the bar exam who were now standing next to her in the processional line. She was a little anxious about introducing herself to the courts, yet she was proud to take the oath and become an attorney.

She also remembers her mother traveling from San Antonio, Texas, to be there. Knowing her mom wanted a photo to commemorate the special event, Thompson obliged by stepping from the line, putting her hand on her hip and flashing a big smile.

“It meant just as much to her as it did to me,” Thompson said. “I think we both felt the same way about that experience.”

The contrast between being admitted to the bar in Illinois and being admitted to the bar in Indiana has stayed with Julia Orzeske, executive director of the Commission for Continuing Legal Education at the Indiana Supreme Court.

In 1985, she traveled from her small town of 1,200 in Southern Illinois to Springfield to be admitted to the state court. There she was crunched behind a filing cabinet in “some gray office” where she could only hear, not see, the individual administering the oath.

A few months later, taking the oath for the Indiana courts, she stood in the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis. All the Supreme Court justices were there, making eloquent speeches and giving a warm welcome to the applicants.

“It was just a different experience,” Orzeske said. “Going from something that took place in a small office to a real ceremony really made it feel like you were entering the bar.” She pointed out the Illinois bar hosts a more ceremonial induction that includes dignitaries from the court and bar associations.

Administering the oath

Prior to the late 1930s, Indiana residents who wanted to practice law just went to the local court and asked to be admitted to the bar, according to Shepard. They were then sent to be examined by other attorneys in the community who would decide whether or not to recommend admission.

Around 1938, the Supreme Court instituted the bar exam and, Shepard believes, as a matter of convenience all who passed the test at the same time where sworn in together. The courtroom was the natural location for the administration of the oath but by the 1960s, the number of attorneys filled the room and family members were relegated to standing in the corridor.

Some time in the early 1980s, the ceremony was moved to the Scottish Rite Cathedral where it remained for 25 years. During this period, the oaths from the federal courts were added, a development that Shepard called a major innovation that has worked extraordinarily well.

Before that change, the applicants were walked down the street after they took the state court oath and went to the federal courthouse in Indianapolis for the oath to the Southern District. Anyone wanting admission to the Northern District had to make their own arrangements.

Judge Robert Miller Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, remembered the federal courts setting aside a few

minutes at the beginning of either the morning or afternoon session to swear in a new lawyer. The process began with an attorney making a motion to present the new lawyer to the court and saying a few nice things about that person. Then the judge would administer the oath.

Miller said after he swore in a new attorney, he would step down from the bench and shake hands before returning to his seat and tackling the court docket.

Missing from the District courts were the families. Thompson wanted her mom at the ceremony because she heard for years Thompson’s dream of becoming a lawyer, and later about the demands of law school. Her mother also listened while Thompson described the stress of the bar exam and the worry she did not pass.

Orzeske’s parents made the trip to Springfield as well as Indianapolis to see her admitted to the bar. In Illinois, they also stood among the file cabinets because she was the first of her sisters to continue her education after getting a bachelor’s degree.

“I think it’s a ceremony for families for the sacrifices they’re made as well as a reward for the lawyers for having passed the bar,” Orzeske said.

‘Magnitude of responsibility’

Reynold Berry attended the October 2005 ceremony as a new lawyer and returned in October 2012 to represent the Indiana State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section. More than a celebration, Berry, who is now section chair, said the speeches, the motions for admission, and the oaths reflect the gravity of being an attorney.

That observation was echoed by Bradley Skolnik, executive director of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners.

“I think it is a very important moment for the profession as we welcome new attorneys,” Skolnik said. “It is meant not only to celebrate achieving admission to the bar but also to impress upon the applicants the magnitude of responsibility they are undertaking by becoming a lawyer.”

The participating judges from the Supreme Court, Indiana Court of Appeals and the U.S. District courts are not immune to the rush of feeling that comes with the ceremony. Shepard said the event is as moving for the judges as for the new lawyers, reminding them of how grateful they are for having had the opportunity to become attorneys.

Moreover, the day’s momentousness may come to mean more as an attorney builds a career, Miller and Orzeske said. As the lawyers go into practice, they will encounter unpleasant situations and this memory could not only counterbalance the cynicism, but also prevent them from taking a misstep in a weak moment.

“The one message that this sends is when you walk into that beautiful courtroom, suddenly you realize people are taking you seriously,” Miller said. •

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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