Monday, October 7, 2013

Catholic Lawyer Denied Admission to Indiana Bar; Challenges Psychiatrists Who Say His Political and Religious Views Make Him Mentally Unfit

Attorney free speech cases, often which involve state disciplinary bodies ignoring the First Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court precedent to file charges, are breaking out all of the country.  But nowhere is the battle more pronounced than Indiana.  While the focus is usually on already-admitted attorneys speaking out and finding themselves charged with disciplinary violations, Indiana has a curious case involving an attorney attempting to be admitted in Indiana only to find his past political activities and religious views triggered a mental examination, an examination which led to his being denied admission to the Indiana bar.   In a December 2009 Fort Wayne Journal-Sentinel editorial, Kevin Leininger writes:
Bryan Brown is a conservative, activist and unapologetic Christian. Of that there is no doubt.
But does that mean he is also mentally ill? Too ill even to be a lawyer?

The bureaucracy that controls access to Indiana’s legal profession believes that very
Attorney Bryan J. Brown
thing, according to a lawsuit in which Brown alleges that he was subjected to a series of hostile religious and political questions during a review of his fitness to practice law – a review that subsequently rejected him on mental-health grounds.
According to Brown, the Indiana Board of Law Examiners ordered him – for reasons unknown – to appear before representatives of the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP) in January 2008. JLAP says that its mission is to "offer" to help judges, attorneys and law students who experience physical or mental disabilities.”

The editorial continues:
There is nothing inherently sinister or inappropriate about examining Brown, or anybody else, wishing to practice law in Indiana. State guidelines require applicants to “possess good moral character and fitness to practice law.” But how do you prove you’re not crazy when any attempt to do so would require a renouncement of your most deeply held religious beliefs?

For the 50-year-old New Haven native who passed the Kansas bar in 1996, an Indiana law license would do far more than allow him to make a living. It would enable him to use the legal system in behalf of pro-life and other traditional, Christian causes under the umbrella of the Arch Angel Institute, which he helped create two years ago and operates from a former abortion clinic at 827 Webster St. And, in fact, Brown’s long history as a militant defender of the unborn may have raised some legitimate red flags as to his fitness.

In 1991, he and other members of Northeast Indiana Rescue were fined $61,600 for picketing too near the Webster Street Women’s Health Clinic. Brown admits to having been arrested “about a dozen” times for pro-life activities, although none of the charges was a felony, which would have disqualified him from the Indiana bar. But none of his actions can explain, or justify, some of the questions to which he was allegedly subjected by two mental-health professionals selected by the JLAP.

Fort Wayne psychologist Steven Ross, Brown claims, used a test including such questions as: Do you believe that you should be punished for your sins? Do you believe the husband should be the head of the family? Do you have strong political opinions? Do you believe that a multitude of people are involved in sexual sins? Have you ever had a vision?

Ross initially concluded that he had found nothing that “should preclude Mr. Brown from taking the bar exam,” but JLAP Clinical Director Tim Sudrovech allegedly added the conclusion that Brown’s religious fervor “suggests a sub-clinical level of bipolar disorder which would warrant further consideration by a psychiatrist.”

The JLAP then referred Brown to Indianapolis psychiatrist Elizabeth Bowman, who concluded he suffered from a personality disorder after questioning him about the Arch Angel Institute’s religious beliefs and his own “religious arrogance.” Bowman mocked his Christian “pro-life zeal,” Brown claims, and questioned his interpretation of Scripture. “If admitted to the Indiana bar he would likely continue his anti-abortion activities,” according to a portion of her report quoted in the lawsuit.

Is the Catholic Brown fit to be an attorney? I have no idea. But I do know that, while it is proper to require a certain code of conduct from attorneys regardless of their beliefs, determining the legitimacy of the religious motivations for his actions is beyond the authority of a government bound by the First Amendment. Even more troubling is Brown’s assertion that Bowman has been associated with the Fort Wayne Feminists, who sued Brown in the 1990s. During his session with Bowman, Brown claims, she said the “trouble” he caused in Fort Wayne would not “just be forgotten.”
Leininger's peice concludes that "Brown’s lawsuit raises troubling questions of church-state separation and conflict of interest, and it deserves the interest of anybody who cares about the integrity and diversity of Indiana’s legal system."

Reading his LinkedIn profile, Brown's body of work is impressive.  To give the abbreviated version, Brown has been an attorney since 1996 and is admitted to the Kansas State Bar.  He spent over six years as senior litigation for the American Family Association Center for law, litigating free speech and Section 1983 cases.  After that, he worked for four years as Deputy Attorney General in Kansas as Chief of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division.  He is admitted to the Supreme Court of Kansas and many federal district courts (including the Northern District of Indiana), half the federal appellate courts (including the Seventh Circuit), and the United States Supreme Court.   Besides these, Brown passed character and fitness review by the Supreme Court of Montana (1996), the National Conference of Bar Examiners (2006) and Supreme Court of Missouri (2006) before starting down that same path in Indiana in 2007.  Indiana is the outlier, the only jurisdiction which found Brown unfit to practice law in its jurisdiction.

Brown brought a lawsuit against the two psychiatrists employed by JLAP who he believed judged him as being mentally unfit for his religious and pro-life views.  The district court found that the psychiatrists had immunity, a decision which was upheld on appeal.  While the lawsuit failed, it did at the time bring some publicity to a case which deserves even more publicity.

The website WND reports Bryan's experience with the examination he received from psychologists, an examination which he said focused on his religious faith:
“The Indiana Board of Law Examiners … remanded me [to] the Indiana’s Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program with some secret (to me) directives. The Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program then sent me out for an interview. I was shocked when the interview was scheduled, by the government, with a psychologist. But knowing myself to be sane, I was not worried. (I should have been, for this was a classic Soviet-style operation.)

“When the psychologist focused upon my religion I grew concerned. Was my evangelical, Catholic faith at issue? I determined that it certainly was. I informed the psychologist and JLAP that my faith certainly should not be the issue or even at issue.”

Brown, who has posted commentaries on his website about his dispute, alleges that he first was referred to JLAP by the IBLE as part of his application process because of his arrests nearly 20 years ago protesting against the abortions in the state. He reports that he was subjected to a grilling about his religious beliefs as part of that.

He cites statements from Bowman, a psychologist who interviewed him on orders from JLAP:
  • “He considers his activities an integral part of his Roman Catholic Christian faith and considers his actions morally right.”
  • “[He] firmly believes he is obligated as a Christian to put obedience to God’s laws above human laws.”
  • “All of his history of civil disobedience is related to his work against abortion and is a responses to his conscience [in which] his passion … has overwhelmed his judgment…”
  • “Mr. Brown has spent most of his legal career and personal life involved in litigation related to religious rights and in opposing abortion … {he] would be likely to use his admission to the bar of any state to continue to work for religious rights.”
Bowman warned the court system, “I find his personality disorder has caused him to lose perspective on the ethics of his behaviors and to be arrested for civil disobedience,” the brief explains.

And Ross, another evaluator, expressed concerns about a “possibility of a sub-clinical bipolar disorder” but that stated, “It is important for me to note … that I am not making these statements purely based upon the fervor of Mr. Brown’s religious beliefs and convictions.”

The resulting conclusion presented to the IBLE was a “Personality Disorder NOS [Not Otherwise Specified]” which contributed to the decision that he cannot even reapply to be a lawyer in Indiana until 2014. 

To read more:

December 27, 2011, Like Tim Tebow, Bryan Brown confounds his critics (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)

August 5, 2011:  The High Cost of Being an Anti-Abortion Attorney (WND)

December 10, 2009,  Pro-Lifer's Lawsuit Raises Alarming Questions (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)

Copy of Brown v. Bowman complaint


McMahon Clan said...

We have known Bryan and his family for many, many years. Bryan is a very intelligent person who happens to be a devout Catholic. I would support this man 100% in his political and religous views. He is a very caring person who has devoted his life to God and his family.
Anita McMahon

varangianguard said...

I find it very difficult to find any credibility in the idea that Indiana is not welcoming to lawyers of any conservative stripe. After all, one of the foremost antiabortion lawyers in the country practices here.
We don't know details. Maybe he has previously made statements that might preclude him from being held in good stead here?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Varan, you're assuming that the machinery of the admission process is somehow controlled by Republicans and/or conservatives. I don't have any reason to believe that. I do find it strange that every other jurisdiction has no problem with the man, except for here. While there is some room for skepticism, unless Brown blatantly made up those quotes which are apparently in written documents, those questions and conclusions are highly inappropriate.

varangianguard said...

I think you are "projecting" here. We ARE talking about I-N-D-I-A-N-A, correct? Assuming anything else is a poor statistical bet around here.

But, for argument's sake how about a hypothetical question? Now I know absolutely nothing about the person in question, other than what you have written here, so this is entirely hypothetical in nature.

What if, in the regular course of being a zealous anti-abortion advocate, a person were to say something publicly to the effect that it would be okey-dokey to kill abortion workers to stop what the person in question views as an evil act? Might that preclude that person from being superficially considered "fit" to practice law? Or, if said person publically approved of other persons committing crimes to stop what they might consider evil acts?

Nicolas Martin said...

This is appalling. And, again, it would not happen but for state licensure of attorneys.

Paul K. Ogden said...


For some reason you're assuming that because Republicans dominate much of government in Indiana, they must therefore control state licensing of attorneys. There is no support for that conclusion. In fact, in another publication they discussed that the head of a pro-abortion group was appointed head of Indiana Board of Law Examiners.

If someone is advocating that others go out and kill someone that would likely be the commission of a felony. But outside of that very limited area, you can't sanction people because you don't like their speech.

So we should kick people out of the profession because they're racist, sexist, etc.? Where do we draw the line? The whole essence of the First Amendment is we don't allow government to pick and choose which speech is acceptable and what is not.

bjb said...

Varagian, you make some unwarranted assumptions based upon uninformed stereoptypes. Number one, not all pro-life attorneys think alike,and not all appreciate one another. The one who you reference actually told me, the year that I graduated law school second in my class (1996), that he would not hire me were I the last attorney on Earth since I had been involved in acts of civil disobedience for the unborn before law school. Number two, not all Indiana judges are conservatives. In fact, the leader of that pact was rumored to be anything but that. Third, not all Indiana attorneys are conservative, and sometimes those who are not at all conservative can amass quite some clout, as did a current and longstanding IBLE member: Fourth, any licensed attorney, as I am, who lied about the facts presented in my federal affidavit would have a career ending complaint filed against them in a Hollywood minute. Four years later, no complaint filed. Because all of this is God's honest truth:

Finally, calumny is a sin, one that has been raised against me by Dr. Steven Ross and many since him, including you, in a bid to keep my case under the table, for none to see and question. Repent Viking, repent.

bjb said...

I am Ransom. Read more about my case at, including how the Varangians of this age have attempted to keep it from being told. See esp

And thank you, Paul and dear Anita.

bjb said...

Varangian, to put your hypo at rest, I have never advcocated, nor was I ever confronted with the allegation, that I had "in the regular course of being a zealous anti-abortion advocate, a person were to say something publicly to the effect that it would be okey-dokey to kill abortion workers to stop what the person in question views as an evil act? Might that preclude that person from being superficially considered "fit" to practice law? Or, if said person publically approved of other persons committing crimes to stop what they might consider evil acts?"

See why I was denied at, in the federal complaint and in the two petitions for US SCT review that I sent up. I was never alleged to have misconstrued the record, and, believe me, if they could have made that charge they would have tried to end my Kansas license or stopped me from being licensed by the Indiana fed district court -- which should say much.

varangianguard said...

Mr. Brown, I never meant to insinuate that you in particular had made any such comments. You couldn't know, but Paul knows me, and I was attempting to engage him by poking at his theory as set forth above.

I would suggest that perhaps you attempt to contact the lawyer I mentioned above to see if he might be willing to provide you with any insights as to how he could become admitted to the Indiana Bar while holding to some pretty conservative views.

varangianguard said...

Oops. I missed that you mentioned that you did speak to another attorney. Not quite sure we are talking about the same person, though.

bjb said...

My friendly viking, Check out my attorney here:

Hard to do much better from a pro-life perspective. And I am not interested in representation from the same right to life team that has had little affect upon Roe v Wade in 40 years.

Also note my argument in section 5 of the above brief. Coming soon to an admin board near you? I think Obamacare might have many such negative spin offs.

bjb said...

Dear Varangian, As to your taunt that I "u attempt to contact the lawyer I mentioned above to see if he might be willing to provide you with any insights as to how he could become admitted to the Indiana Bar while holding to some pretty conservative views."

HEY, I am not arguing that the Rule of Law was followed in my case. Just the opposite, in fact. I am special, in a bad kind of way. The constitutional and statutory and regulatory safeguards that protest most did not protect me. I was not even allowed recourse to them, in fact. Any legislative investigation would uncover more than enough to recommend oversight of this areas of Hoosier law. ALTHOUGH ... I do have reason to believe that things have improved due to much personnel changeover in the system.

bjb said...

When the rule of law is rejected, we are at tyranny by definition. It is a thin line between constitutional governance and tyranny, and doling out court admission or lawyer punishments based upon political affiliation or religious opinion is, by definition, tyrannical.

varangianguard said...

Just as a factual note, I was not "taunt(ing)" you. If I were, it would have been much, much clearer.

Just as a hint, I know it is difficult to discover intent and tone from these written blogs, but starting off by accusing someone of slander for asking questions, or inferring animosity without due cause, might not be the best way of influencing opinion for yourself in a positive manner.

bjb said...

Varangarian, I apologize. I took your first few posts as attacks upon my credibility and denials of the possibility that what I have averred under oath could be true. My bad.

varangianguard said...

No offense taken. As I said, it is often difficult to "read" tone into written posts by those you are not familiar with. Good luck with your effort to take the Indiana Bar exam.

Pete Boggs said...

All that jib jab nonsense aside; this is a Constitutional issue.

That which does not protect all uniformly or equally, is something other than law. Institutional infections of this nature are only curable by investigation.

bjb said...

Thanks Pete. But the verb tense is past. Was a constitutional issue. I am tagged and bagged. Seven years of my career derailed by Hoosier bureacrats if my legal reasoning is correct. If the State's legal reasoning is correct, then be afraid, be very afraid, if you opening state views that the political correctness folks ... in my case JLAP in particular ... find "double plus ungood."

Happily we have a new Exec Director of the IBLE, some positive additions to the IBLE and three new S.Ct. Justices since I was "processed" back in 2008-09. Today's decision setting Tom Dixon free from statist cords is a welcome development as well. A new day may be dawning in the Hoosier state, a new outbreak of constitutional governance. So we pray, even if that really bothers JLAP's hand-selected shrinks.

bjb said...

Paul, thanks again for writing this. There is much more to the story, but this part is crucial .. I am not mentally ill for being a Christian! If fact, once I realized that such was the direction that JLAP was taking this I asked them to pre-brief a well respected Fort Wayne psychiatrist, Dr. Bryan Flueckiger, so that I could use him as an expert witness. They refused and refused to acknowledge this fine doctor, since he was not on their "approved" list. This is very similar to the fashion in which soviet operations were run. Here is what Dr. Flueckiger concluded after meeting with me for two hours over and against the statute for character and fitness:

Anonymous said...

What can we do?

bjb said...

For me? Pray, for they have ruined me economically and possibly professionally and my family is paying a very dear price for that. What to do for Paul? I suggest encouragement. Hit his fund, even if only for $15. Send his posts around, esp the ones on his case, so that he is encouraged to know that there are those who give a damn. Do not underestimate the toll that is taken upon one who the government wants to destroy ... and what would a year out of the practice do other than destroy? Paul is a truthttelling dissident, a man of the kind that our Founders were, a man who should be greatly valued. Do not stand by quietly while the system crucifies him.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

God speed cousin! YOU are of the kind of man that this nations founders were. I'm betting on you and the Constitution of the United States.
Jim Brown