Campbell: The impact of the Supporting Rural Justice Initiative

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I was born and raised in Veedersburg in Fountain County and still live there today. It’s where my father is a farmer and where my mother practiced law. I grew up not knowing how important small towns are, especially the businesses that are in them. As I got older and went to college in a city, I realized how few resources are available for our small communities. That is part of the reason I decided to pursue a career in law.

As I start to come up on the end of my last year of law school here at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, I have come to realize just how much of an impact the Supporting Rural Justice Initiative has had on me and my law school experience. The initiative was the main reason I decided to study at IU McKinney, and it has come to be one of the best decisions I have made thus far.

While growing up and watching my mom practice law, I never appreciated how impactful being a rural attorney can be. With my focus now being rural law, I understand just how important legal representation in our small communities around the state can be and the impact it can bring. I have observed countless people in my community driving to larger cities to find adequate legal representation simply because of the lack of it here in our communities. My hope after earning my degree is to utilize my skill set for the individuals in my community that need it most — someone they know and trust to represent them during some of the hardest and most difficult times in their lives. For me, that is my main goal in becoming an attorney.

Starting law school is scary; commuting an hour each way makes it a bit scarier. But I was determined to stay in my community and find opportunities to gain experience in law in my home county. This is where the Supporting Rural Justice Initiative really impacted my experience. I knew I had my mind set on practicing law in or very close to Fountain County, and the Rural Justice Initiative set in stone that decision for me.

During my first summer in the program in 2022, I worked in the Warren Circuit Court under Judge Hunter Reece. Warren County is just north of Fountain County, and I spent a lot of time there growing up, so it worked out well. That summer taught me a lot about rural courts and how much a circuit court judge must know, especially if they are the only judge in the county. In summer 2023, I took part in the program again, this time working under Warren County Prosecutor Bonnie Adams. Again, Bonnie is the only prosecutor in the county and has one chief deputy under her. This program not only opened my eyes to the inner workings of rural justice systems, but also gave me real-world experience that is an asset.

Throughout law school and my two summers in the program, I have had the opportunity to experience, observe and discuss the rural justice systems of both Warren and Fountain counties with the attorneys who practice there, their prosecutors and their judicial officers. Although there are not many inhabitants, the quality of people I have met far outweighs the quantity. I can only hope to one day be admired, respected and trusted in my small community as much as those individuals I have met in the last three years.•

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Alexa Campbell is 3L at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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