ILNews

Justices hear IMPD arresting-authority case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana's highest jurists today questioned attorneys about whether any arresting authority exists for those who didn't take an official oath for the recently created Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Justices' pointed questions go to the heart of State v. Cheryl Oddi-Smith, 49A05-0708-CR-445, a drunk driving case that Marion Superior Judge Rueben Hill ruled on in early August, throwing out a woman's arrest because of the oath-taking issue. The Indiana Attorney General's office filed a petition in August to appeal the case directly to the state's highest court. Justices accepted emergency transfer Oct. 9 to bypass the Court of Appeals, citing Appellate Rule 56(A) that notes in rare cases the court can bypass the lower court "upon a showing that the appeal involves a substantial question of law of great public importance and that an emergency exists requiring a speedy determination."

This high-profile appeal comes after Judge Hill in Criminal Court 18 - himself a former Indiana State Police trooper - decided that the January drunk-driving arrest of Oddi-Smith was illegal because the arresting officer was not officially sworn in after the police merger of the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Only top officials and a few officers took the oath following the merger, according to defense attorneys James Voyles and Annie Fierek.

The judge noted in his opinion that the main legal issue is whether this merger created an entirely new police agency, and if so then all officers would need to be sworn in again.

Potentially at stake in the case: thousands of arrests made this year. Though Judge Hill has vowed not to hold this standard to other cases, and the officers have since taken an official oath, defense attorneys could still have a field day with appeals on countless arrests made by the law enforcement agency.

Cynthia Ploughe, deputy attorney general arguing for the Indiana Attorney General's Office, told the court that oaths are mostly ceremonial and don't mean much - it's the training that matters more.

"There is no state law that requires the IMDP to be sworn in; they are de facto officers," she said, mentioning that the local in-house ordinance can't be applied as a law.

Justice Brent Dickson interjected arguments at one point, asking the importance of this issue that seems more like a "fictional issue" than anything of practical importance. He posed the question of whether an officer is less obligated to the Constitution by not taking an oath.

Voyles countered the state's point, noting that an oath is more than just a "technical nicety" and is a promise that officers will uphold the Constitution.

Justice Frank Sullivan picked up on the term "consolidated" and compared the law enforcement consolidation to a corporate merger, where the new entity is beholden to all the previous liability and obligations the former two agencies had.

He pondered what would happen to lawsuits or actions filed to a previous agency if that liability went away with a consolidation, and his colleagues picked up on that thought. Justice Ted Boehm noted that it could create an opportunity for municipalities to create a shell game to avoid liability, washing their hands clean of any potential trouble by forming a new entity.

"If an oath doesn't carry over, what else doesn't carry over," Justice Sullivan asked. "What implications does that have, and how can that make sense?"

You can watch the Supreme Court arguments online at http://www.indianacourts.org/apps/webcasts.
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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