Baker & Daniels LLP has presented the Charles L. Whistler Pro Bono Award to 11 individuals in recognition of exceptional dedication to pro bono and public interest work.
The award was established in memory of Charles "Chuck" L. Whistler, a former partner at the firm who set the standard for leadership, public service and community involvement during his time at Baker & Daniels. Each year, Baker & Daniels presents the award to individuals within the firm who have gone above and beyond in dedicating their time, energy and effort to improve and expand access to justice for underserved individuals and communities.
Recipients of 2009 awards represent partners, associates, paralegals and administrative staff. They are Brent Auberry, Katrina Dittmer, Shawna Eikenberry, Alli Fetter-Harrott, Kris Hagan, Rich Hill, Rob Moreland, Kathy Osborn, Drew Soshnick, Frank Swain and Mark Wright.
"Pro bono and public interest service historically have been a part of our culture and remain an important part of the firm's professional and institutional responsibilities," Tom Froehle, Baker & Daniels chair and chief executive partner, said in announcing the newest award winners. "We are very proud of the pro bono dedication and work by so many individuals, and we honor this year's award recipients in memory of Chuck Whistler, who provided outstanding vision, talent and energy to the community."
Following is a brief summary of the initiatives involving this year's award winners:
Brent Auberry recruits a team of firm lawyers to oversee a site for the Indianapolis Bar Association's semi-annual Ask-A-Lawyer event, which operates at 10 locations throughout Indianapolis and serves between 600 and 700 individuals with their legal questions and concerns. He helped lead the Indiana property tax advocate phone bank, fielding calls and questions from the public on property taxes. Auberry practices in Baker & Daniels' tax group from the downtown Indianapolis office.
Katrina Dittmer helped develop the Indiana Lawyers for Soldiers pro bono initiative to provide legal assistance and resources to several thousand deployed and recently returned members of the Indiana National Guard and their eligible family members. She designed and implemented the Web site and online application service that allows Indiana Guardsmen and women to register their request for legal service from all around the world – and also allows lawyers to register online to provide pro bono services for this initiative. Dittmer works in Information Technology from the firm's downtown Indianapolis office.
Shawna Eikenberry served as appointed counsel and conducted oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago last fall. The court adopted her argument, improving the client's position at the district level. Eikenberry also helped develop an innovative training program for Child Advocates that has increased the number of Indianapolis area volunteers representing at risk children in court proceedings. She serves on Child Advocates' board of directors. Eikenberry is also involved in the firm's collaborative Wishard Medical-Legal Partnership program and represented an infant who was diagnosed with failure to thrive. Her representation and collaboration with medical professionals led to a mediation that benefitted the infant and the family as a whole. Eikenberry practices in the construction and real property litigation group from the downtown Indianapolis office.
Alli Fetter-Harrott coordinates Baker & Daniels' work with the Indiana University Maurer School of Law clinical program in Bloomington. She has assisted persons with disabilities on benefits issues, worked with summer associates on similar cases and helped design statewide training for domestic relations mediation. Fetter-Harrott also is active in the Indiana Lawyers for Soldiers program, which offers pro bono legal assistance to deployed Indiana National Guardsmen and women. She has represented several Holocaust Survivors through the Bet Tzedek Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, a national program that provides Holocaust Survivors pro bono assistance with their reparations applications. Recently, Fetter-Harrott helped prepare an amicus brief that was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the National School Boards Association. She practices in the labor and employment group from the downtown Indianapolis office.
Kris Hagan worked with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to notify Indiana's 226 registered Holocaust Survivors on new reparations opportunities from the German government and the availability of pro bono assistance in the Los Angeles-based Bet Tzedek project, for which Baker & Daniels is Indiana's representative firm. She also helped develop a handbook for more than 40 lawyers in Indiana and facilitated placement of more than 25 Holocaust Survivors with pro bono lawyers, serving as the state coordinator of the Bet Tzedek program. She continues to lead the firm's work on this project and recently was appointed to the national advisory committee for the Bet Tzedek Holocaust Survivors Justice Network. Hagan is a paralegal in the firm's business litigation practice from the downtown Indianapolis office.
Rich Hill has served as legal counsel to the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County, which serves victims of domestic violence, since its inception. His work includes incorporating the Indiana organization and obtaining federal and state tax exempt status. Hill, who leads the firm's public finance group from the South Bend office, also helped the center negotiate a lease for its current space and facilitated a strategic planning session with key board leaders focused on their long-term sustainability and relationships with city and county entities.
Rob Moreland has played an important role in expanding the Indiana Lawyers for Soldiers program beyond central Indiana. Indiana Lawyers for Soldiers offers pro bono legal assistance to deployed Indiana National Guardsmen and women. Moreland led a team of lawyers in the firm's Fort Wayne office, where he practices in labor and employment law, to assist the wife of a deployed soldier in an emergency eviction matter. He continues to recruit and place cases with volunteer lawyers – both inside and outside the firm – and builds Indiana's pro bono capacity throughout northern Indiana.
Kathy Osborn leads Baker & Daniels' group advocating for persons with disabilities. She also is involved with a variety of other representations, including working on several adult guardianship cases, assisting Holocaust Survivors with reparation applications through the Bet Tzedek Holocaust Survivors Justice Network and serving on an ethics group to advise the Wishard Medical-Legal Partnership program, a multi-disciplinary patient advocacy initiative that pulls together doctors, lawyers, nurses, public health professionals and social workers to practice health care and improve the health outcomes for patients. She helped prepare an amicus brief that was filed in the South Carolina Supreme Court and represented the opinions of ethics professors as part of a death penalty appeal. Osborn practices in business litigation from the firm's downtown Indianapolis office.
Drew Soshnick prepared a domestic relations mediation training program with Indiana University-Bloomington for lawyers from across Indiana to become certified in conducting mediations for low income and unrepresented populations. He served as co-faculty for the five-day, 40-hour training, which is providing 120 families with pro bono domestic relations mediation services. He participated in the Bet Tzedek Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, a program that offers pro bono assistance to Holocaust Survivors with their applications for reparations from the German government. Soshnick leads the firm's family law practice from the downtown Indianapolis office.
Frank Swain has provided counsel and advocacy for a number of groups assisting low income and challenged individuals. He provides service to the Genetic Alliance, a group of more than 100 health-related organizations advocating for the enactment of federal legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of personal genetic information; Windows of Hope, a population-based medical project dedicated to the detection, characterization and treatment of inherited health problems within the Amish population; and Gallaudet University, a federally chartered school for the deaf in Washington, D.C., where he practices in the firm's insurance and financial services group.
Mark Wright provided legal service and counsel to the Madame Walker Theatre Center, assisting its board of directors with the review, negotiation and finalization of an agreement with a New York developer to turn the Indianapolis theater's property into a mixed use development. He is also helping develop a program that would provide a hotline for first-time homebuyers in Hamilton County. Wright focuses his legal practice in real estate law from Baker & Daniels' 96th Street Office in Indianapolis.
Baker & Daniels' pro bono committee, chaired by partner Carl Pebworth, is composed of more than 40 lawyers from various practice groups and office locations. The committee focuses on developing public service opportunities, coordinating projects and overseeing funding requests for pro bono initiatives and activities. The firm encourages all of its lawyers, paralegals and other professionals to participate in pro bono and public interest opportunities.
Recipients of Baker & Daniels' Charles L. Whistler Pro Bono Award in 2007 and 2008 were Matt Albaugh, Kathryn Anderson, Michelle Bray, Jane Dall, Terry Hall, Jennett Hill, Rhonda Jackson, Matt Lamkin, Jon Laramore, Martha Lemert, Suzann Lupton, Joe Miller, Emily Paavola, Tony Pickell, Chad Priest and Betsy Smith.
ABOUT CHARLES L. WHISTLER
A lawyer and community leader, Charles L. Whistler gave his time and extraordinary abilities to the Indianapolis community. He represented diverse interests and was instrumental in an array of projects, including Uni-Gov, beautification of downtown, creation of the City Center on Monument Circle, the opening of the Indiana Theater and planning of White River State Park. Whistler was a senior partner at Baker & Daniels and chairman of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee's Urban Growth and Revitalization Task Force and the White River Park Citizen's Advisory Committee when he died unexpectedly in 1981 at age 55. Whistler was – and remains today – an inspirational standard to measure care, leadership, public service and community involvement.