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Judges divided over prison term for probation violation

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was divided in affirming a man’s revocation of probation and order that he serve 12 years of his suspended sentence, with the dissenting judge finding this decision will penalize his child who is relying on support payments.

Johnny Ray Jenkins challenged the determination that he violated the terms and conditions of his probation, claiming the state didn’t sufficiently show that he knowingly failed to pay court costs or probation fees. He didn’t challenge the finding that he violated probation by failing to timely report to the probation department, which on its own would be sufficient to support his probation revocation, noted Judge Edward Najam in Johnny Ray Jenkins v. State of Indiana, No. 48A04-1102-CR-64.

Jenkins admitted he didn’t pay the court costs and fees and was able to hold a job and set up child support for his child. Jenkins never pointed to any mitigating evidence on the record to explain why he hadn’t paid those obligations, so the majority concluded that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in finding he violated his terms of his probation by not paying the costs.

Najam and Judge Melissa May also upheld the order Jenkins serve 12 years of his previously suspended sentence, pointing to the fact that Jenkins admitted that he failed to pay the court costs and fees, he had not reported to probation for more than one year and he had four prior probation violations.

“Again, probation is a matter of grace, not a right,” wrote Najam.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented on the matter of the 12-year sentence, arguing for the trial court to impose an alternative sentence. She pointed out that Jenkins was able to get a job and set up child support for his child after he was released from prison.

“Returning him to the Indiana Department of Correction for twelve years, not only punishes Jenkins for improving his life while he was on probation, but also penalizes his child who is relying on the support payments,” she wrote. “Furthermore, indiscriminately sending him to the DOC for failing to pay some minimal court fees and costs without taking into account his undeniable rehabilitation, his employment status, and the contributions to his child’s life, will bring us onto the slippery slope of a debtor’s prison.”

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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