Julia Blackwell Gelinas, Partner of Frost Brown Todd LLC, and the late Deborah Hepler will be honored with the Antoinette Dakin Leach Award on October 20 from the Women and the Law Division of the Indianapolis Bar Association. The award is only presented when the Division feels an appropriate candidate is worthy of the award for her professional and personal accomplishments.
The award presentation will take place during a luncheon at the Skyline Club in Indianapolis on October 20 and will recognize both Gelinas and the late Deb Hepler, who passed away of breast cancer last fall. Former recipients of the award have included pioneer women in the legal profession. The award itself is named for Antoinette Dakin Leach, who was the first woman to challenge the Indiana State Bar’s denial of admission based on gender. She took the matter before the Indiana Supreme Court in 1893, and became the first woman licensed to practice law in the state of Indiana.
Gelinas practices in the area of appellate, construction, fidelity and surety and other commercial matters. She also represents lawyers before the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, where she served as a former chair (1999-2001) and member of the Executive Committee (1991-2001). Prior to the 2009 merger of Frost Brown Todd with Indianapolis-based Locke Reynolds, Gelinas served as chair of Locke Reynolds’ Management Committee from 2000-2005, and was one of very few women to hold that title in Indianapolis. She is a well-respected national leader in the profession and a frequently requested speaker. Gelinas has been recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation; and is included in Indiana Super Lawyers Top 25 Female Super Lawyers list (2004-2010) and listed in Best Lawyers since 2007 for Appellate and Construction Law.
Hepler, who passed away in October 2009, is best known for founding the Protective Order Pro Bono Project of Greater Indianapolis which is now a program of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Until her death Hepler remained actively involved with the program including providing training on ethical issues for pro bono attorneys. She graduated from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis in 1994 and served as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. She also worked for what is today Frost Brown Todd in Indianapolis and had taught as an adjunct law professor at the Indianapolis law school. At the time of her death, she was general counsel for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
Hepler was a member of the boards for the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence, Indiana Legal Services Inc., and the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis. She was also on the board of the Carmel Community Players. She was a Distinguished Fellow of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation and former chair of the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Women and the Law Division.
In recognition of her efforts in the fight against domestic violence, she was selected to receive the 2005 Alumna of the Year from the Indiana University School of Law Alumni Network, the 2005 Chancellor’s Community Award for Excellence in Civil Engagement, and the 2001 Prelude to Light Award by the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis.
Other trailblazers who have received the award include 1990 recipient Hon. Judge V. Sue Shields, the first female Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals; the first female trial court judge in Indiana; and the first female federal magistrate judge in Indiana. The Hon. Sarah Evans Barker, the first woman to be appointed to the United States District Court in Indiana, received the award in 1993. Hon. Myra C. Selby received the award in 1997 and was the first female justice of the Indiana Supreme Court and the first African-American member of the Court.