Angka Hinshaw’s dedication to public service is seen in her advocacy for immigrant and indigent populations as she’s risen through the ranks at the Marion County Public Defender Agency. Hinshaw also serves the broader community as board member and development chair of Happy Hollow Children’s Camp, which offers a retreat for disadvantaged children and those with special needs. And she serves the legal community through her active involvement in bar associations and the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.
What are some of the traits one needs to be a successful public defender?
To be a successful public defender a person should be compassionate, enjoy service to others, desire to fight injustice and not be afraid to advocate.
What drew you to public service, particularly serving immigrant communities?
For several years, I have been an active member of the Indiana State Bar Association Latino Affairs Committee. I was drawn to the advocacy against the often unfair treatment of our Latino neighbors and the immigrant community at large. As a person who is a double minority and whose mother naturalized in the U.S. 12 years ago, it’s been enlightening to learn about the challenges and struggles of other cultural and racial groups and to be a part of the advocacy of their rights.
If you could change one law, what would that be?
I would create a law that public intoxication would be an ordinance violation with a fine that could be enhanced to a misdemeanor after multiple violations. Also, I would make operating a vehicle without a license an infraction that could be enhanced to a misdemeanor offense due to an accident or multiple violations.
What motivated you to pursue a legal career?
When I was in high school, I was a track athlete. I received college recruitment letters from many universities. However, when I was a senior, my high school coach withheld my recruitment letters because I refused to run while injured. I remember calling local attorneys asking for help, but no one took me seriously nor thought it was a big deal. Granted, I was a teenager. Nevertheless, at 17, the experience left me hurt, and I vowed to become an attorney and help others in difficult situations.
Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?
Depending on the circumstance, I call upon different people for inspiration and advice. There are special people in my life who inspire me with simple wisdom that resolves my dilemma. Two of those special people are my parents. Since I was a child, my parents always engrained in me to persevere and to “do your best” in whatever circumstance of life.
What would you be doing if you had not become an attorney?
If I was not an attorney, I would be a school psychologist in a public elementary school.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?
Helping clients access services that they need such as mental health, drug/alcohol assistance or reconnecting a person to a group home. Also, sharing wisdom of life and encouragement to my young clients who are without positive role models or support.
What’s something about you not many people know?
Many people may not know that I enjoy sewing and making leather goods. In the past, I’ve quilted baby blankets for my sons, crafted a leather coin pouch and silk necktie for my husband, made a reversible tote bag and more. I love using my mechanical sewing machine and using my hands to make goods for my loved ones to cherish.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?
When I am not working in the office, I enjoy learning Spanish and spending time with my husband and sons.
Why is it important to you personally to volunteer with JLAP?
It’s important to me to volunteer with JLAP because I care about my profession and those within my profession. Oftentimes, lawyers don’t take care of themselves and become consumed with servicing others and climbing the invisible ladder of success. As a public defender, we read and see the worst of life’s circumstances. My life experiences coupled with my training as a JLAP volunteer have allowed me to support my peers and colleagues. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I care about people and respect one’s privacy, so if I ask “how are you?” or “can I help?” it’s a genuine question and not passive pleasantry.
Where do you see your legal career 10 years from now?
Still serving the public.
What’s your advice to a younger person who’s thinking about a legal career?
A juris doctorate is a wonderful degree that will open many doors of success. However, it’s a long and expensive journey to become an attorney. I would encourage a young person to learn about the profession, speak with lawyers, even if that includes “cold calling” a local attorney, learn about the different practice areas, and ask to job shadow an attorney for a day.•