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New Supreme Court lineup could change pro se case outcome

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The Indiana Supreme Court is thinking about rehearing a case it ruled on four months ago, in which a majority at the time created a new rule but offered no guidance for trial judges on informing future defendants about the dangers of proceeding pro se.

But what’s changed since that 3-2 ruling in David Hopper v. State of Indiana, No. 13S01-1007-PC-399, is what could ultimately change the outcome of this case if it’s reheard, since now-retired Justice Theodore Boehm was the authoring justice for the majority and he’s no longer a part of the state’s highest court.

Following its Sept. 28, 2010, decision, the court on Monday issued an order that expresses its interest in considering whether it should rehear the issues on this case out of Marion County.

David Hopper had originally pled guilty in 2005 to operating while intoxicated, signing a “waiver of attorney” form but later seeking post-conviction relief on the grounds that his waiver wasn’t made knowingly or intelligently and that denied him the constitutional right to counsel.

The Marion Superior judge denied that petition and the Court of Appeals reversed in Hopper’s favor, but a three-justice majority affirmed the trial judge’s findings as applied to Hopper but also using the court’s supervisory power to set a new standard for future defendants.

“Rather, we exercise our supervisory power to require that in the future a defendant expressing a desire to proceed without counsel is to be advised of the dangers of going to trial as required by Faretta, and also be informed that an attorney is usually more experienced in plea negotiations and better able to identify and evaluate any potential defenses and evidentiary or procedural problems in the prosecution’s case,” Justice Boehm wrote at the time for the majority that also included Justices Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan.

The majority noted this new advisement, which is prospectively applied, will require minimal additional time or effort at the initial hearing and may encourage defendants to accept counsel. They don’t believe it will impose a significant burden on the judicial process, but didn’t offer any specific instructions on how trial courts were to advise defendants.

As a result of the lack of guidance to trial courts, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Brent Dickson dissented. They wrote that the primary beneficiaries of the decision will be repeat offenders, people like Hopper “because he has been charged with yet another offense and it would be helpful to him if he could wipe out his last conviction for drunk driving.”

The warnings mandated by the majority aren’t required by the federal constitution and the majority explicitly declined to say that they are required by the state constitution, the chief justice wrote. He also noted that his colleagues acted “without a word” on balancing the social costs or benefits within the mandate. The dissent questioned how many people will decide not to plead guilty because of the “minimal” judicial intervention introduced by the majority, or how many repeat offenders will avoid penalties because the warning was omitted or found inadequate with the benefit of hindsight.

Following that ruling, the state filed a rehearing request in late October and Hopper did not file a response. Now in its order dated Jan. 10, the Supreme Court is ordering Hopper to file a response to the state’s rehearing request by Feb. 11. Any interested amicus curiae parties are also invited to submit briefs before that date. A separate order setting oral arguments will also be issued by the Supreme Court, which since the Hopper ruling now has a new lineup –authoring Justice Boehm has left the court and Justice Steven David has taken that seat.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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