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Majority reverses Hopper advisement created last year

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court has reversed its 2010 decision to require that pro se defendants be informed about the dangers of pleading guilty without an attorney. Two of the justices who originally voted to create the “Hopper advisement” found themselves in the minority on the high court’s decision on rehearing.

In September 2010, Justices Robert Rucker, Frank Sullivan and Theodore Boehm created the “Hopper requirement” – named after defendant David Hopper – which held that trial courts must be advised of the dangers of going to trial or pleading guilty without representation as required by Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). The majority in the original decision noted the new advisement – which was prospectively applied – would require minimal additional time or effort at the initial hearing and wouldn’t impose a significant burden on the judicial process. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Brent Dickson dissented, questioning how many people would decide not to plead guilty based on the advisement or how many repeat offenders would avoid penalties because the warning wasn’t given.

But since that 2010 ruling, Boehm has retired and been replaced by Justice Steven David, and today the high court reversed its earlier decision on a rehearing petition requested by the state. Shepard, David and Dickson made up the majority in the latest opinion. The majority affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief for Hopper – who in 2005 decided to plead guilty to a driving while intoxicated charge after waiving his right to counsel. The majority denied Hopper’s argument and overturned their earlier decision.

“While we do not doubt the value of the Hopper advisement’s language in particular stages of particular cases with particular defendants, the notion that such language should be mandatory in all stages of all cases with all defendants is misplaced,” wrote Shepard in David Hopper v. State of Indiana, No. 13S01-1007-PC-399.

Rucker and Sullivan dissented, with Rucker writing that the state’s petition for rehearing never should have been granted because the state advanced no new arguments. Rucker also couldn’t understand why the majority believes it is a bad idea to provide pro se – and likely indigent – defendants with the advisement outlined in the original Supreme Court decision: “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.”

“I do not disagree that a Hopper advisement is not necessarily required by the Sixth Amendment or by the Indiana Constitution,” he wrote. “Nor do I advocate that the lack of an advisement would automatically result in reversal of a defendant’s conviction. But the advantages of giving such an advisement, especially at the initial hearing stage of the proceedings, far outweigh any disadvantages of doing so.”

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  1. 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

  2. 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!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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