Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Abdul Hits Kennedy On "Inactive Status"

Melina Kennedy's campaign for Marion Co. Prosecutor took a hit today when WXIN radio talk show host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz raised questions about Kennedy's listed "inactive status" as an attorney admitted to practice law in Indiana for a 9-month period ending last June. Already plagued by critics' charge that she lacks prosecutorial experience, this latest revelation is likely to raise questions about her commitment to the practice of law. As Abdul explains at Indiana Barrister:


The potential problem for Kennedy is that for nearly nine months, September 18, 2004 through June 6, 2005, Kennedy was on the inactive list. She left the Mayor's office in September 2005, created an exploratory committee for prosecutor in October 2005 and officially field for prosecutor on February 1, 2006. Kennedy would not have been able to legally serve as prosecutor one year prior to forming her exploratory committee.

Usually when attorneys go on "inactive" status it is because they leave the state, the profession or have committed some misconduct. Sometimes, like me earlier this year, they forget to pay their registration fee. They send in a check and get back on the list. I sent mine after getting the letter in the mail and am in good standing in the State of Illinois. To the best of my knowledge, none of those circumstances apply to Kennedy, which makes the nine-month absence rather odd. Why would someone who is considering running for Prosecutor, who knows experience will be an issue, take a nearly nine-month absence from the active list? She was still in the Mayor's office while inactive. While she could not practice law, she was still a key aide to Mayor Peterson in the area of economic development.



According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, Kennedy was first admitted to practice law in Indiana on June 14, 1996. The publicly available records reveal a gap in her active status. She has been an active member in good standing since June 6, 2005. Abdul reports that her "inactive status" kicked in on September 18, 2004, although that date isn't currently provided on the Roll of Attorneys' listing for Kennedy. Abdul opines that an attorney goes into "inactive status" when "they leave the state, the profession or having committed some misconduct."

At the purported time of her "inactive status", Kennedy worked in a non-legal policy position for Mayor Bart Peterson's administration. Although she was not actively engaged in the practice of law, Kennedy could have maintained her "in good standing" status to practice law as long as she paid the annual attorney registration fee and performed the minimum amount of continuing legal education hours for the current year and the applicable 3-year cycle. Attorneys who retire, stop practicing in Indiana, or switch to a non-legal job typically elect "inactive status", which they can do by executing an affidavit swearing that they are no longer engaged in the practice of law but wish to maintain inactive status in Indiana.

By adjusting to "inactive status", an attorney is no longer subject to the CLE requirements as long as he/she remains in that status; however, the attorney is not allowed to practice law while on "inactive status." While some states don't require attorneys to take CLE as a continuing requirement to practice law, Indiana does. An attorney who fails to comply with CLE requirements can be suspended and even disbarred in Indiana.

An inactive attorney can return to active status after electing "inactive status" as long as the current CLE requirements are satisfied. In Kennedy's case, because she was in "inactive status" for less than a year, she would have had to have fulfilled any unmet CLE requirements for the period of her inactivity. Abdul notes that Kennedy became a mother during her inactive period, but the Kennedy campaign did not offer that as a reason for her "inactive status" according to Abdul (UPDATE NOTE: per Sheila Kennedy's post below--Melina gave birth to twins during this period and needed the time off for this reason, although her campaign did not mention that according to Abdul's account below). Abdul explains what the campaign told him about Kennedy's "inactive status":


I asked the Kennedy camp about this entire situation this afternoon. The response from campaign manager Andy Miller and spokesman Tim Moriarty was essentially, "It doesn't matter." They maintain that Kennedy's work in the Mayor's office fighting domestic violence and promoting economic development are experience enough. They also point to her work on the State Supreme Court and the fact she is in good standing now. They argue Kennedy's experience speaks for itself and they don't see how not being able to practice law for close to nine months is an issue.


Certainly the fact that an attorney at some point in their career elects "inactive status" does not in any way diminish their competence to practice law. In Kennedy's case, however, the timing of it so close to the time she decided to run for prosecutor makes it a relevant issue. It tells us that she swore in writing to our Supreme Court, for whom she once worked, that she no longer intended to practice law in Indiana for an unspecified period of time. And she took this act a year before she launched her campaign for Marion Co. Prosecutor.

Abdul assures us that Republicans intend to make an issue of her inactive status. He says, "Marion County GOP Chairman Mike Murphy said 'the nine-month lapse reveals Kennedy was not serious about being prosecutor or a lawyer.'" (Update: In light of Sheila Kennedy's comments below about the birth of her twins during this period, the issue could cut both ways). Matt Tully was right. This race is going to be brutal.

10 comments:

Sheila Suess Kennedy said...

I think this is really unfair--as another Kennedy who has taken advantage of the "inactive" option, I can tell you (and Abdul)that there are many reasons other than those he notes for choosing to go on inactive status for a time. In my own case, I became inactive because my teaching duties made it inconvenient to attend CLE programs. I've worked in City Hall, and it would be equally inconvenient for someone in the Mayor's office--especially someone with new twins! That is what the status is for--to allow people who aren't currently practicing to take a "leave of absence."

Count me one person who thinks this criticism is below the belt.

Advance Indiana said...

Sheila,

Your point is well taken. I do think that Melina needs to address the issue head on though and offer her rationale for her "inactive status" like you just now did. In the rough and tumble of politics, the explanation her campaign gave just didn't cut it--you obviously handled the question much better than her campaign. They should have explained that she took leave because of giving birth to twins. I know that my sister barely survived the first few months after her twins were born with her sanity intact. If that is her explanation, I think that will defuse the issue and make her opponent look back if he attempts to use it against her.

Abdul said...

Sheila,

Had the Kennedy folks made the explanation you did this would have likely been less of an issue. I think it is relevant, but the explanation I got from her campaign didn't make the situtation better. Now this is going to continue to run in the blogsphere for a while before our brothers and sisters in the press pick it up. As Shakespeare said, "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!"

Anonymous said...

No one ever accused Melina's staffers of being PR savvy.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is inconvenient for Melina to have gone inactive so close to her decision to run for prosecutor.

That being said, the media should not let Carl use this as an "issue" that reflects on her competence to practice law and/or be the elected prosecutor.

Any lawyer would tell you that an attorney elects to go inactive if they are not practicing (ie, being a CEO, investment banker, or working in the Mayor's office doing economic development as a Deputy Mayor).

It has nothing to do with merit. The Mayor of Indianapolis, I believe, is a lawyer and "inactive." Half the Mayor's office are lawyers who are inactive.

At the point she decided she was serious about running, presumably during the summer of 2005, she became "active." Great! So she could then "officially" practice law.

This is a great issue for twisting and trying to make the average voter think somehow this is a negative. Really, this is NO BIG DEAL.

Finally, Melina's people could hae handled a little more deftley, or at least seemed prepared for the question.

This is more evidence that Carl is running scared and ready to have his people, including apparently his buddy Abdul, with whom he's shared one to many shrimp cocktails, get out to do some Nixon-esque rat f**king.

This is going to be a bloody race to the bottom. I mean, you think Ed Traecy and Mike Murphy are going to play nice?

However, Carl, what goes around, as they say, comes around. I'm thinking there's some real good sh*t out there on you, mi amigo.

Abdul said...

Anonymous,

If that is your real name. A couple points of clarifcation. I would be lying to you if I said Carl and I were not friends. I am also friends with Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell, Mike Edmundson and other Democrats. I maintain quite a few friendships with the people I cover on all sides of the aisle.

In spite of that, one thing they will all tell you is that I am fair. I went after the GOP following the fiasco in the 29th Senate District following Murray Clark's retirement. This is no different.

And as far as preparation goes, I gave the Kennedy people 24 hours notice before I ran the piece. I told them what I was writing and gave them ample time to respond. If their answer was not satisfactory then you will have to talk to them.

And while I don't reveal my sources, I can say I did not get this information from the Brizzi camp. I am also an attorney (IL) and I know where to look for information on other lawyers. If you were one, maybe you would know this also.

Good night and good luck.

Marti said...

Honestly, as someone that isn't a lawyer, I couldn't give two shits less. If you told me she'd never practiced law before, or she was disbarred for some reason, you might have a point. But trying to bash her for going inactive seems desperate.

Abdul said...

Marti,

It's not bashing. It's a fact in the records. The voters will decide if it matters. And somehow I get the feeling that if this were Brizzi, your post would probably take a different tone. Just a thought.

Brody Murphy said...

So, while Brizzi is complaining that Melina Kennedy is a mother of twins, he's allowing CONFESSED CRIMINALS out? Check this from Steve Laudig:
"In a Superior Court of Marion County last week a defendant was released and charges dismissed even though: a. the victim was shot in the back; b. there was a confession.

All on Brizzi's watch. More efups from Brizzi as they occur. There was another just yesterday."

Fight Crime Carl, stop following Melina around at parades...

Anonymous said...

PLEASE Advance Indiana WAKE UP!

Call out Mr. Brizzi for his open flip flop on this issue of being
anti-gay.

Note this: At the time Mr Brizzi dropped plans to fight for hate
crime legislation (breaking a promise he made to many), he aligned himself
with the Minister Alliance and Rev. Lyons as his key allies in his
campaign. Magically, right after aligning with this anti-gay group (the
MOST anti gay you can get), Mr Brizzi decided not to pursue hate crime
legislation, because it would call him out on the issue of whether LGBT
community is covered. This is TOTAL BS and typical Brizzi flip flop.

On the other hand, Ms Kennedy is out in front on the issue of
supporting hate crime legislation including covering the LGBT community(see
editorial in most recent Recorder).

Advance Indiana: ask Mr Brizzi to comment on why he has alinged with
the Minister Alliance and Rev Lyons and what he thinks of their views
of the LGBT community. PLEASE