In December 2018 the local bar association honored two local attorneys who had practiced law in Decatur County for more than 50 years. The two were Bill Robbins (54 years) and Don Wickens (59 years). Attorney William O. Smith was asked to introduce them and share some of their history. The following is a bit of what he said about each. It gives us a chance to appreciate what they’ve done for us and the county.
A graduate of Greensburg High School, Bill Robbins graduated from Wabash College in 1964, from IU Law School in 1967 and was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1968. He began law practice in Greensburg with Raymond Rolfes, Richard Garvey and Karl Walker. When the county bar association held a memorial service in remembrance of a deceased attorney, Robbins prepared those memorial statements that were read and placed in the court records. Robbins has served in the Indiana Legal Services assisting indigent people in the county. He has done much “pro bono” work for organizing and representing non-profit organizations.
In 1974, he was elected prosecuting attorney. At that time, by statute, all Indiana county prosecutors, except in Indiana’s four larger cities, were classified as “part time.” Each county’s “part time” prosecutor operated the office from within their own private practice of law. There was no public place designated as a county’s prosecutor office. Robbins was one of the first “part time” prosecutors in Indiana to create a public Office of Prosecuting Attorney and moved that office into the Decatur County Courthouse.
In 2003, the Greensburg Chamber of Commerce gave Robbins its Community Service Award for both his service in charitable activities and his extended promotion of economic development in Decatur County.
Bill, his wife Sally, and others organized the Decatur County Youth Soccer league. He became a licensed soccer referee. He’s been a member of the Greensburg Rotary Club and is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow” He’s one of the original seven charter board members who created the Decatur County Community Foundation and stayed active in its growth. He and his family were inducted as members of the Stephen Decatur Society. He and Sally have been married for 46 years and he is the father of five including Jennifer Sturges, who practices law with him, and son Bryan Robbins, the executive director of the Greensburg-Decatur County Economic Development Corporation.
Don Wickens graduated from GHS, from the University of Denver (in three years), served in the Army and graduated from the Indiana Law School in Indianapolis in 1961. At that time, the law school only offered night classes. Don continued to live in Greensburg, commuting to law school by passenger train that stopped in Greensburg every morning on its way to Indianapolis. Another train traveled from Indianapolis to Cincinnati in which he returned each evening, again stopping in Greensburg.
The Wickens law firm is the oldest continuing law firm in Decatur County. It has been served by four generations of Wickens lawyers. During the 1960s and 1970s, Don was a defense attorney who challenged the law, the prosecutor and the judge in any criminal case wherever possible. There was no provision, procedure or requirement for evidence discovery in a criminal case, even though discover had been practiced in civil law for a number of years. Don filed his famous “motion to let the bail.” Under Don’s especially designed motion to dismiss the criminal case. By statute under this motion, the prosecutor was obligated to show that the State had substantial evidence to support the crime. If not, the defendant could be released from jail or have the bail lowered. When this motion was set for hearing, Don subpoenaed every possible trial witness and cross-examined each one under oath. If the State or a witness omitted anything at the hearing, that fact would be used for impeachment. These motion were heard in front of the trial judge.
Don or his firm represents many public organizations in Decatur County including the County Community Schools, County REMC, Greensburg Memorial Hospital. He defended the REMC during a period when Public Service of Indiana was filing condemnation suits to take over the existing electric service areas of REMC. These Public Service Indiana vs. REMC lawsuits continued for years followed by extensive appeals to the Indiana appellate courts. Eventually, his representation of REMC prevailed, the law was changed by statute and case law and Public Service could no longer take over REMC’s electric service areas. Don has quietly given hours of pro bono service to people and organizations. He’s been a strong supporter of the Decatur County Community Foundation from its beginning.
He’s been married to Sharon for 55 years. They have three children including their youngest, Robert, who joined the law firm in 2001.