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Talk to a Lawyer event a success

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The statewide Talk to a Lawyer Today event that annually takes place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been hailed as the best yet by organizers. All 14 pro bono districts had at least one walk-in and/or call-in site for lawyers to answer questions from members of their communities for free.

Attorneys who work in District 8 - Boone, Hamilton, Marion, Hendricks, Hancock, Johnson, Morgan and Shelby counties - participated at the statewide call-in center at the Indiana State Bar Association. There, 26 lawyers talked to 322 callers Jan.18, up from 266 last year, according to Laurie Beltz Boyd, district plan administrator for Heartland Pro Bono Council.

Boyd and others who participated said they noticed an increase in the number of calls from Marion County but said it was likely because of the publicity the event received from Indianapolisbased media outlets.

As to why lawyers participate, two Indianapolis city lawyers who volunteered at the call-in center said there were multiple reasons. Steve Neff and Leannette Pierce have volunteered every year since 2005. They agreed the CLE was a good deal; a six-hour CLE is offered to all volunteers in exchange for taking one pro bono case and volunteering two hours at Talk to a Lawyer Today. While Neff and Pierce cannot take pro bono cases because of their positions with the city, they paid a nominal fee instead.

Both said it was a good experience to talk about a number of legal issues with members of the community. This year, Pierce said she heard more child support questions than before; Neff said he answered many questions about debt and bankruptcy issues. Each attorney received 10 calls during the 9 to 11 a.m. shift.

While some attorneys are intimidated about volunteering because they aren't used to multiple areas of law, Pierce said the book volunteers receive is very thorough. She added the book has been helpful after the event when relatives ask her legal questions she doesn't know offhand.

There was also a Spanish hotline at the Indiana Bar Foundation in Indianapolis. Five attorneys there answered 26 calls about family law, criminal law, debt collection issues, and immigration, among other questions.

Monica Fennell, executive director for the Indiana Pro Bono Commission, said one unusual circumstance this year involved District 11: Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, and Jennings counties. That district's offices were in the building in Columbus that had a devastating fire Christmas Eve.

Fennell said soon after the fire, that district's plan administrator, Tammara Sparks, called her to ask for another copy of the DVDs for the Talk to a Lawyer Today seminar.

"We got the DVDs to her right away, and she was able to hold the seminar in an alternate location," she said.

Sparks said this was the first time they were unable to find a location for a call-in site, which she believes may have affected their numbers. The 28 volunteer attorneys for District 11 helped a total of 40 people.

In District 2 - St. Joseph, Elkhart, Kosciusko, and Marshall counties - the event was at the St. Joseph County Public Library. Amy McGuire, executive director of St. Joseph County Bar Association, said 18 attorneys and 12 paralegals helped 80 people with a variety of legal issues.

McGuire said the event was so successful and appreciated by the library that the library invited the bar association and the South Bend-based Volunteer Lawyer Network Inc. to have a similar event on a monthly basis.

In District 13 - Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Martin, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties - 12 attorneys and five paralegals helped prepare 29 wills as part of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana Inc.'s partnership with Southwest Behavioral Healthcare. Indiana Lawyer reported on this partnership in the Aug. 19-Sept. 1, 2009, edition, "Project helps patients create wills."

District 13 also has a regular Talk to a Lawyer Today program on the first Thursday of every month. Their Jan.7 Talk to a Lawyer Today program helped 46 members of the community.

In District 3 - Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley counties - 48 attorneys and six non-attorney volunteers helped 193 people, based on information compiled by Indianapolis attorney Patricia McKinnon, who volunteers and also helps track statistics statewide.

McKinnon said that in District 14 - Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Crawford, Orange, Washington, and Scott counties - seven attorney volunteers answered 16 calls, mostly about family law issues.

In District 1 - Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, and Starke counties - plan administrator Judith Stanton reported 71 attorneys helped at 11 different sites, answering a total of 137 questions. The highest turnouts were at two LaPorte County library sites, the Lowell Public Library in Lake County, and the Knox Public Library in Starke County.

District 6 - Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, and Randolph counties - had sites in four different counties. Volunteers for that district had 157 consultations and helped an estimated 223 people given the number of families and couples who had questions.

This event has been sponsored by the Indiana State Bar Association since 2002.

"This year's program was the most successful program in our eight-year history. We answered more questions, and helped more people, than we ever have in the past," McKinnon said.

"This is due the tremendous amount of hard work put into this program by the local pro bono plan administrators, as well as the overwhelming support given to this program by the ISBA and the Indiana Pro Bono Commission. I hope next year's program will be even better!"

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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

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  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

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