By Chelsea L. Granville, Marion County Public Defender Agency
In March, the Indiana Supreme Court Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Amendments. The amendments to Criminal Rule 2.1 and Trial Rule 3.1 (found here) required cell phone numbers and email addresses to be listed in attorney appearances.
The reason behind the proposed amendments was simple: notification. “It’s a common practice used to a successful end to keep people notified,” said Mary Willis, former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Administrative Officer. Following the proposal, the Supreme Court Rules Committee invited public comment on the amendments. During the comment period, the Indianapolis Bar Association solicited opinions on the proposed cell phone rules—the response was, generally, concern from members across many areas of practice. The survey was distributed to 3,511 attorney members and was completed by forty-three percent of recipients. Eighty-seven percent of respondents answered “no” when asked if they supported the rule changes.
The main concern? Personal privacy. Court appearances are public information and used not only by court office staff and judges, but are accessible to clients and opposing parties as well. “We deal with extremely high emotions in the family law arena,” said Brian K. Zoeller, an attorney at Cohen & Malad LLP. “I work very long hours and I am very responsive to my clients, but if my clients and the opposing parties had access to my cell phone number I would need to purchase a separate cell phone and number just for that purpose.” Brian, a family law veteran with 22 years of practice under his belt, opposed the rule “because it would have meant non-stop after-hours calls from clients and opposing parties alike.”
Criminal defense attorneys are also no strangers to non-stop phone calls and unannounced office visits. To some lawyers, the unintended consequence of the cell phone rule potentially reached further than an intrusion on privacy. “Articles suggest that a large number of attorneys suffer from anxiety, depression, and addiction problems,” said Raeanna Spahn, an associate at Eskew Law who practices general personal injury, civil rights claims, medical malpractice, and criminal defense. “By forcing an attorney to provide their personal cell phone number, it enforces the concept that attorneys need to ‘always be on and always working’ and does not allow attorneys to unplug from work which could negatively impact their overall health and well-being.”
Ultimately, the Supreme Court did not approve the proposed rules requiring attorney cell numbers on appearance forms. Criminal Rule 2.1 was amended, but the only change made was to section (d), which required pro se defendants to include their name, address, telephone number and email address on appearance forms. Trial Rule 3.1 was not amended.
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