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Task force makes recommendations for pro bono reporting

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As the Indiana Supreme Court continues to consider mandating all Indiana attorneys report the number of pro bono hours they work, a task force has proposed that the donated hours be disclosed publicly only in an aggregate form rather than identifying the number of pro bono hours performed by an individual or a firm..

The disclosure proposal was one of five recommendations made by the Indiana Pro Bono Commission’s Pro Bono Reporting Task Force. The Supreme Court asked the Commission to appoint an ad hoc task force to make suggestions on how a mandatory reporting requirement would be implemented.

Indiana Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth, chair of the commission and leader of the task force, emphasized that the task force has only offered proposals. How any reporting requirement would be implemented has not been determined.

“We are recommenders, we are not deciders,” Wentworth said. “We have been asked to recommend only.”

The Supreme Court also underscored that the recommendations have not been adopted. At this point, the justices have not discussed the report and the court is not expressing any opinion on any of the recommendations.

Task force members were unanimous on the public disclosure recommendation. The task force concluded giving the total number of pro bono hours worked instead of listing hours by attorneys would still serve the purpose of the reporting rule to more accurately determine how many pro bono hours are provided annually in Indiana.

In addition, opposition to publicizing the hours by attorney has been strong. The task force believed an aggregate approach would ease fears that the reporting rule was the first step toward auditing reported hours, disciplining noncompliance or mandating pro bono service.  

The five recommendations made by the task force are as follows:

1)    CLE: Do not waive continuing legal education requirements in exchange for pro bono legal service. Forgiving CLE hours for pro bono work could send the wrong message that donating legal services is more important than keeping abreast of practice techniques and changing laws.
2)    Public Disclosure: Publicly report the pro bono hours only in an aggregate manner. Do not identify the number of hours donated by individual or by firm.
3)    Definition of Pro Bono: Do not change the definition of “pro bono publico service” in the Professional Rule of Conduct 6.1. Although attorneys had requested the meaning of “pro bono” be clarified and broadened, the task force recommended against a rewrite because pro bono programs have been developed with the current definition in mind. However, the task force proposed a Frequently Asked Questions supplement should be widely available to give real world examples and guidance on the distinction between “pro bono” activities under Rule 6.1 and reportable “pro bono” activities under the proposed Rule 6.7.
4)    Draft Rule 6.7: Identify which pro bono legal services are reportable in the proposed Pro Bono Reporting Rule (Professional Rule of Conduct 6.7). Allow attorneys to make a financial contribution to a qualified entity as an alternative to providing pro bono service.
5)    Implementation: Add a field to the annual online attorney registration for Indiana attorneys to report their pro bono hours and/or a financial contribution. Noncompliance would be impossible. Each attorney would have to enter a number for either pro bono hours or financial contribution in order to proceed. Entering zeros would technically comply with the reporting rule.

The Indiana State Bar Association and the Indiana Pro Bono Commission are accepting comments on the proposals through Aug. 8. Attorneys can contact the ISBA at 317-639-5465 for further information. Attorneys can submit written comments to the Indiana Pro Bono Commission at 615. N. Alabama Street, #122, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

All comments will be forwarded to the Supreme Court administrator.  

Attorneys can access the report through the ISBA website by clicking here.
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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