Leslie Duvall: 2011 Legendary Lawyer Honoree
See photos from the celebration on September 27.Great crowd! Great fun! Great man!
2011 Legendary Lawyer
|Leslie Duvall, Life Fellow
Life Fellow Leslie Duvall was selected as the 2011 Legendary Lawyer by a committee of his peers. Duvall’s career included extensive public service and private practice in several Indianapolis law firms. He will be honored Tuesday, September 27 at a ceremony at Lewis & Kappes. Join us for this 4:30 p.m. event and RSVP to the Indiana Bar Foundation.
Duvall was a member of the Indiana Senate from 1966 – 1985. It was a time when political arguments rivaled those of today but the bitter partisanship we see today was unheard of. Duvall, a Republican, and his wife were close friends with his fellow senator from across the aisle Frank O’Bannon and his wife Judy.
Duvall’s career led him to handle many complicated issues. Those that gained notoriety were: unification of the Marion County Courts, the halt of production of the Marble Hill nuclear power plant in Madison, Indiana, and effects of that closure and the closure of the Bailly plant in northern Indiana.
Formidable Issues as State Utility Commissioner
In addition to almost 20 years in the state senate, Duvall was appointed chair of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) in 1985 by the late Governor Robert Orr where he served until 1989. During his time with the IURC, Duvall made many tough decisions, including the cancellation of the Marble Hill nuclear power plant in Madison, Indiana, due to cost overruns and quality control problems. He presided over other hot button regulatory issues during that time: effects on utilities of the federal Tax Reform Act of 1986, the controversial electrical territorial disputes over which utility should serve automotive plant sites and the beginning of the movement to examine what parts of the telephone industry could or should be deregulated. Some electric utilities in Indiana were close to bankruptcy during his tenure. As ubiquitous as utilities are in the lives of consumers, few of us can probably imagine the breadth and depth of issues he mastered during his professional career in the utility regulatory position.
Acting In the Public’s Interest
Yet Duvall’s time at the Commission was also marked by respect for the public. He was very supportive, according to colleagues, of an educational program about utility regulation for Indiana teachers called “The Balancing Act: How Utility Rates are Decided.” He also pushed expansion of field hearings to provide information about the Commission in a more understandable format for the public.
The unification of the Marion County Superior and Municipal courts was another area where Duvall was instrumental in shaping important governmental structures. Specifically the Marion County Court unification involved absorbing the Superior Courts into the Municipal Courts and redesigning how the judges were elected. In the early 1970s, national scandals involving Watergate and the Vietnam War had eroded the public’s trust in institutions. Republicans, holding the majority of state and local offices, were swept from office. Judicial candidates, often not well known and reliant on political party affiliation, were elected based on the traditional method of which individual candidate received the most votes. As a result, the entire municipal bench was ousted in one election due to the party affiliations of the candidates.
Finding enough qualified and competent candidates was sometimes a challenge. Through Duvall’s efforts, a legislative compromise evolved and led to electing judges in a way that no one single political party would dominate the courts. The compromise: each of the two major political parties slates an equal number of judicial candidates (at that time eight candidates per party for 15 posts). Those with the most votes overall are elected, thus leading to a more balanced bench in terms of party affiliation. More parity has meant less partisanship and and an evolving trust in the election of judicial candidates with judges from both parties working together to manage the court system. Today, the Marion County Courts’ web site indicates its courts resolve 90,000 criminal and civil cases (excluding traffic violations) annually.
“Les was able to bring people together with a common vision for bettering the judiciary,” said the Hon. Ken Johnson, a magistrate now who was on the bench from 1979-2008.“No one could have done that but Leslie Duvall. The judiciary and the citizens owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Duvall has served the legal profession throughout his career. In addition to being a member of the ISBA, he is a member of the Indianapolis Bar Association – serving on the board of managers as well as the grievance committee. He clearly has the respect of his peers and his former employees. One former employee called him “the best boss I ever had.”
A Career of Service
Duvall chaired numerous committees for the Indianapolis and Indiana State Bar Associations, including those that established the Marion County Public Defender Council (1997) and the unification of the Marion County courts. Duvall joined Lewis & Kappes in 1995 and is now retired. He was also an instructor at the Indiana University School of Law, from which he received his Juris Doctorate in 1949, and he is a Butler University graduate, class of 1948. He was a veteran of World War II in the Air Force.
The Legendary Lawyer Award recognizes the careers of individual attorneys whose career commitments in areas of legal ethics, community involvement, public service and professionalism demonstrate the high calling and higher achievements of lawyers in modern society. The attorney selected must have been in practice for at least 50 years and be a Fellow in the Indiana Bar Foundation. The committee of Fellows selecting Duvall include: Hon. Cynthia Ayers, Indianapolis; John Maley, Indianapolis; Jeffrey Hawkins, Sullivan; Hon. Lorenzo Arredondo, Crown Point; and Catherine Nestrick, Evansville.