Legislative Update

By James Dimos

As the General Assembly is in session, our legislative counsel, Paje Felts, has been busy at the Statehouse. Among the legislation being considered this session, sections and committees of the ISBA are urging the adoption of legislation addressing a variety of issues that:

  • Set ethical and professionalism standards for ALJs and encourages agencies to use an attorney as their ALJ;
  • Allows paternity records to be treated the same as dissolution records by courts so records are open;
  • Provides funds to law schools to create a veteran affairs legal clinic;
  • Makes technical corrections to the probate code;
  • Allows guardians to file a dissolution of marriage on behalf of their wards; and
  • Makes changes to laws regarding zoning and real estate issues.

One piece of legislation that the Association has not taken a position on is the proposed constitutional amendment on same sex marriage, HJR-3. The ISBA can only take an Association-wide position by acting through the House of Delegates or, in case of emergency, the Board of Governors.  Seldom has the Association itself taken a position and, in those rare instances, it has done so through the House of Delegates. Over the last year, two separate committees of the ISBA considered the question of whether the ISBA should take a position on the same sex marriage amendment but neither presented a resolution to the House of Delegates for consideration at our Annual Meeting last October. As a result, the House did not address the issue and the ISBA does not have a position on it.

Recognizing that this issue would remain in the forefront of the public debate after the Annual Meeting and the fluid nature of the political process, the Board of Governors appointed a special committee chaired by Professor Joel Schumm at the IU-McKinney School of Law to monitor the activities concerning HJR-3 during this legislative session and to make recommendations to the Board as to whether the ISBA should play a role in the debate over HJR-3 and if so, the appropriate way to do so.

The Committee, on behalf of the ISBA, is following the process closely but has not made any recommendations yet. Last night’s vote in the House amending HJR-3 by removing the second sentence, for example, reshaped the issues significantly. The Committee continues to assess whether the ISBA should play a role in the debate over HJR-3 and, if so, the appropriate way to do so in a manner that is duly considered and approved in accordance with our bylaws.

Among our 12,700 lawyer members throughout the state, we have thoughtful individuals who hold a wide range of political, religious, legal, economic, and public policy beliefs on the issues raised by the proposed constitutional amendment. Some have chosen to share their thoughts on the issues with the ISBA and we appreciate their input. We recognize that other organizations, including the Indianapolis Bar Association, have chosen to weigh in on the issue. Much like the fact that the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce took a position on HJR-3 while the Indiana Chamber of Commerce did not, the IBA and the ISBA have different constituencies and both organizations need to serve their members as the respective boards see fit.  As a past President of the Indianapolis Bar Association, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the IBA and its volunteer and staff leadership.  I am sure that its Board of Managers gave this issue considered thought and reached the decision that it believed was in the best interests of the IBA.  I know that is what our Board of Governors is attempting to do as the debate over this issue continues.

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