CARE clients are often the victims of physical neglect, if not abuse, at the hands of others. They are often victims of outright theft and financial exploitation by others. Sometimes, through the work of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and Adult Protective Services these perpetrators are criminally charged and brought to justice. Too often though these perpetrators get away, free from any criminal prosecution either because of a lack of sufficient evidence to meet the higher burden of proof required by criminal statutes, or because their acts, though heinous, did not result in the level of harm that could justify the expenditure of limited public resources to pursue prosecution.
In such instances, CARE team members believe that justice should still be pursued. CARE believes that bringing civil tort actions or civil actions for conversion should be brought against the perpetrators. Typically, such actions would not likely be brought when the perpetrator is deemed “judgment-proof” (meaning that the defendant has no viable ability to pay the judgment), as the costs of such prosecution could not be justified. In most instances, the perpetrator of neglect or exploitation is indeed judgment-proof.
However, CARE’s role as a public-interest law firm places us in a unique position. CARE team members have the skills to bring such actions, conduct discovery, and bring cases to a successful conclusion. CARE’s mission includes the pursuit of justice, even if the form of that justice is a civil judgment that may never be collected. CARE team members have the means of providing accountability, nonetheless, and through this effort awareness can be raised about the widespread abuse and exploitation occurring in our community and state. Indeed, through civil actions CARE may be able to gain discovery of facts that could lead the prosecutor to bring criminal charges.
CARE also believes that our justice pursuit efforts can attract lawyers wishing to volunteer their services in prosecuting the actions. However, it is known and appreciated that to do the job properly, and even to attract the volunteerism of other lawyers, the effort would require funding, primarily to pay for the costs of such actions – filing fees, copy charges for discovery, court reporter fees for depositions, and perhaps even experts to help analyze medical facts and financial data.
The results of these justice pursuit efforts can help highlight the fact that when CARE becomes guardian for a vulnerable adult, it will take whatever action is appropriate to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. By providing a model of how such measures should be taken for all victims of such affronts, CARE can help find justice for such victims throughout Indiana.