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Appellate court addresses parental privilege in 2 opinions

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In two cases involving the parental privilege defense, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a teacher who “flicked” a special education student’s tongue and against a father hit his daughter numerous times with a belt.

In Trinda Barocas v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1007-CR-732, special education teacher Trinda Barocas appealed her conviction of Class B misdemeanor for “flicking” the tongue of a student with Down syndrome. Barocas had twice told the student to put her tongue back in her mouth and when she didn’t, Barocas flicked her tongue, causing the student to wail and cry.

Barocas argued she wasn’t guilty because teachers have qualified immunity for reasonably necessary disciplinary acts. Parents have legal authority to engage in reasonable discipline of their children, even if that conduct would otherwise be battery, and that justification has been extended to teachers, within reason, wrote Judge Melissa May. The judges looked to Willis v. State, 888 N.E.2d 177, 180-81 (Ind. 2008), which discussed the parental privilege defense and noted for the state to sustain a conviction of battery where a claim of parental privilege has been asserted, the state must prove either the force the parent used was unreasonable or that the parent’s belief that such force was necessary to control the child and prevent misconduct was unreasonable.

The appellate court found Barocas’ force against the student was not cruel or excessive, and it doesn’t rise to the level of “unreasonable force.” The judges were unable to find any decision in which a parent or teacher’s conviction of battery was upheld based on the use of force as minimal as that used by Barocas, wrote Judge May. The state also didn’t prove the second element of the test adopted in Willis – that the teacher was unreasonable to believe a physical prompt was necessary to control the student’s behavior of sticking out her tongue. They reversed Barocas’ conviction.

But in Jeffrey L. Hunter v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1011-CR-1224, a different Court of Appeals panel ruled against father Jeffrey Hunter who argued his Class A misdemeanor battery conviction should be reversed because the evidence didn’t rebut his parental privilege defense.

Hunter had ongoing disciplinary issues with his 14-year-old daughter B.H. and after finding out she had someone forge a signature on a permission slip to go to Indiana Beach, he ordered B.H. to strip down to her underwear and come to him in the living room. When she wouldn’t tell him who paid for the trip, he hit her around 20 times with a belt, leaving injuries that were still present months later. The “degrading and long-lasting physical effects” of her injuries differentiate this case from Willis and the appellate court concluded he used unreasonable force. They upheld his battery conviction.

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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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