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Indiana Court Decisions - April 2 to 15, 2014

IL Staff
April 23, 2014
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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

April 15

Criminal – Motion to Suppress

United States of America v. Marcus Henderson

13-2483

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found in his home during a protective sweep by the SWAT team after responding to a hostage situation. Marcus Henderson claimed the sweep – which led to the discovery of firearms – was unreasonable.

South Bend police and SWAT team officials surrounded Henderson’s home based on a possible hostage situation. Crystal Davis had sent her ex-boyfriend, Terrence Winfield, text messages that she was being held against her will by Henderson in his home and that he had weapons in the house. The standoff lasted about an hour, with Davis leaving first unarmed and Henderson stepping out of the house later, unarmed, and locking the door behind him.

Unable to unlock the front door using Henderson’s keys, the SWAT team forced entry through his back door to conduct a brief protective sweep of the house. No one else was inside, but they saw remnants of a marijuana growing operation and firearms in plain view. A search warrant was later obtained.

Henderson sought to suppress the seized firearms, arguing the protective sweep was unreasonable and violated his Fourth Amendment. The District Court denied the motion, and he was found guilty of being a drug user in possession of firearms.

On appeal, Henderson also argued that the police should have confirmed with Davis how many people were in the home, which would support whether police would have to enter to conduct a protective sweep. But the judges pointed out that it’s not realistic for officers to always rely on the statements of people involved at a crime scene; sometimes they provide wrong information or lie. In the instant case, the District judge believed Henderson’s story that Davis was at his house on her accord but made up the hostage situation because she was unfaithful to Winfield.

“And, the duration and scope of the protective sweep in this case were reasonable. The SWAT team entered the house within ten minutes of detaining Henderson. Unable to operate the front door lock with the keys found on Henderson, the SWAT team forced their way into the house through the back door. Once inside, they secured the premises to ensure nobody remained in the house, victim or assailant. The sweep was cursory and lasted no longer than five minutes. … Other than the SWAT team, the South Bend Police Department remained outside until the court issued the search warrant and a full search was feasible. The district court did not err in denying Henderson’s motion to suppress,” Judge William Bauer wrote.

Indiana Supreme Court

April 11

Discipline – Private Reprimand

In the Matter of: Anonymous

45S00-1301-DI-33

The Indiana Supreme Court privately reprimanded a Lake County attorney for making misleading communications regarding legal services and not including his office address in a public communications. The charges stem from his affiliation with a national for-profit organization that franchises its registered trademarks, including “Law Tigers,” to law firms around the country.

The anonymous respondent entered into a three-year license agreement with the American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers Inc. to be an exclusive licensee for Indiana. AAMIL was obligated to make sure that all calls to the Law Tigers toll-free number seeking legal assistance in the attorney’s area were automatically routed to the firm.

The respondent could also be contacted through AAMIL’s Law Tiger’s website, which identified respondent and his firm as the Law Tigers for his territory. This website contained examples of previous results obtained by other Law Tiger attorneys and testimonials. Visitors could be put directly in contact with respondent’s firm and could bypass his firm’s website.

The respondent also distributed AAMIL-produced information, which contained a toll-free number for the Law Tigers service and its website, but did not include the address of the respondent’s firm.

The Disciplinary Commission alleged the respondent violated five rules, but the hearing officer only found respondent violated two rules. The Indiana justices agreed with the hearing officer that respondent violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 7.1, making false or misleading communications regarding services, e.g., statistical data, information based on past performance, testimonials; and 7.2(c), failing to include an office address in a public communication.

The average viewer would not differentiate between respondent and the statements about Law Tigers on the AAMIL website and that the attorney is therefore responsible for the objectionable content on the website, the per curiam opinion states. It does not matter that respondent’s own website does not violate any of the rules charged.

Respondent also should have included his office address in the material he distributed.

The court found the following facts in mitigation: Respondent has no history of prior discipline in nearly 41 years of practice; he has cooperated fully with the commission; he exercised due diligence before entering into a contractual relationship with AAMIL in attempting to determine whether the relationship would violate any professional conduct rule; and his own website provided disclaimers regarding the content of the Law Tigers website.

He is ordered to pay a $250 fee and half of the costs of the proceeding.

Indiana Court of Appeals

April 3

Civil Plenary – Defamation/Communications Decency Act

Jeffrey M. Miller and Cynthia S. Miller v. Federal Express Corporation and 500 Festival, Inc.

49A02-1307-PL-619

The former head of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana failed in his bid to reinstate defamation claims against a business and a nonprofit that owned computers from which critical comments about him were posted online.

Jeffrey M. Miller sued multiple defendants who posted comments on various Indianapolis media websites in 2010. Miller claims he was defamed by online commenters who criticized his leadership of JA, which he ran from 1994 until 2008.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele properly granted summary judgment in favor of Federal Express Corp. and 500 Festival Inc.

Those organizations owned computers from which comments alleging misuse of funds and possible criminal acts were posted to a story about JA on the Indianapolis Business Journal website. Keele concluded that Miller had no claim against FedEx or 500 Festival for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the appeals panel affirmed the ruling.

The panel ruled “the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of 500 Festival and FedEx, finding each to be sued in their capacity as a publisher of the information at issue and concluding that, as such, these defendants were immune from the Millers’ claims under Section 230(c) of the federal Communications Decency Act because these defendants are providers of an interactive computer service.”

The ruling does not bar claims against those who wrote the comments, who are considered “publishers” under the act. Only one commenter is identified in the order – 500 Festival Vice President of Corporate Sponsorship Dave Wilson. Miller was able to trace the comments through IP addresses to 500 Festival and FedEx computers, but he was unable to determine who at FedEx posted two of the comments that form part of the basis of his suit.

Miller also contended FedEx and 500 Festival inadequately responded to his efforts to determine who posted the comments.

“Although there may have remained a genuine issue of material fact concerning spoliation of evidence under state law, the trial court properly granted summary judgment,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the panel. He wrote, “these issues are mooted by the fact that both FedEx and 500 Festival are immune from the claims brought by the Millers.”

Miller previously won an appellate victory that the Indiana Supreme Court declined to review ordering The Indianapolis Star to identify anonymous commenters who Miller sought to name in a defamation action.

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April 7

Juvenile – CHINS/Drug Use

In the Matter of: L.P., a Child Alleged to be a Child in Need of Services, K.K., Mother v. The Indiana Department of Child Services

77A01-1310-JC-427

A mother’s isolated use of methamphetamine by itself is insufficient to sustain a child in need of services finding, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The case involves a Sullivan County mother of 6-year-old L.P. who Department of Child Services interviewed after a tip that the mother had used the drug. The mother tested positive after a voluntary screen. The child was placed with a relative, and DCS then began CHINS proceedings.

Mother voluntarily agreed to drug screens and provided 10 consecutive negative tests. Evidence also was presented that the child was well cared-for. Sullivan Superior Judge Robert E. Springer returned the child to the mother but determined the child to be in need of services. While commending mother for working and avoiding substance abuse, he wrote he agreed with DCS’ “zero tolerance” for meth, which he said had caused “tragic” effects in the southwestern Indiana county. The appeals panel reversed.

“We are mindful that ‘juvenile court judges are often faced with the challenge of balancing multiple factors and multiple voices in a CHINS case’ and ‘[t]he process of the CHINS proceeding focuses on the best interests of the child, rather than guilt or innocence as in a criminal proceeding,’” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote, citing In re K.D., 962 N.E.2d at 1255.

“Although methamphetamine use may indeed be epidemic, here the relevant inquiry was whether L.P. was seriously impaired or endangered and in need of care and supervision unlikely to be provided without coercive intervention of the court. ... (T)he State proved a single use of methamphetamine; likewise, there is no suggestion that it took place in the presence of the child.

“... Mother thereafter voluntarily and consistently took drug screens with negative results. The factual finding of an isolated use of methamphetamine, without more, does not support the conclusion of law that L.P. was a CHINS,” the court held.

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April 9

Miscellaneous – Grandparent Visitation

K.L. v. E.H.

29A02-1308-MI-681

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the order granting visitation to the paternal grandfather of a child whose father killed himself before her birth. But one judge had reservations about the visitation arrangements.

Mother K.L. was legally separated from her husband W.L. when she began a relationship with L.H. in April 2011. She became pregnant and spent time at the home of E.H., L.H.’s father, on occasion during their relationship. In October 2011, L.H., the father of L.L., committed suicide, which led to a break in communication between K.L. and E.H. The father’s wife attended a baby shower for her and K.L. invited E.H. and his wife to the hospital after L.L. was born. It was later determined that L.H. was the baby’s father.

K.L. and W.L. have reconciled since their divorce. E.H. had been unable to see L.L., despite his requests, so he filed for visitation. The trial court ordered mediation, but it was unsuccessful. The court granted E.H.’s petition and dictated that L.L. would visit E.H. every other Sunday for two hours. The visits would initially be supervised, but later transition to unsupervised.

K.L. appealed, arguing the mediator should have been able to testify that E.H. was the one who made mediation unsuccessful as well as that the visitation should not have been granted. She claimed to have a limited relationship with E.H., was worried he could not care for L.L.’s tubes in her ears properly, and worried the visitation would raise questions about her biological father before K.L. was ready to explain the issue to her child.

The Court of Appeals rejected K.L.’s argument regarding the mediator’s testimony, noting that the trial court made it clear that the statements made during mediation would be confidential and the mediator could not testify. It does not matter that this issue involves visitation of a child, as K.L. argued.

The judges also found no abuse in discretion in granting E.H.’s petition for visitation, citing Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S. Ct. 2054 (2000), and Indiana Code. The trial court noted the limited contact K.L. had with E.H.’s family before and after L.H.’s death, that mother ignored E.H.’s requests for visitation, E.H.’s extensive experience caring for children, and there was no evidence L.L. would be in danger when visiting her grandfather. The court also afforded little to no weight to some of the concerns expressed by K.L.

Judge Margret Robb, in her separate opinion, took issue with the trial court’s lack of consideration to the mother’s concerns and dissented from the majority’s decision to affirm without reservation the visitation order. Robb believed the visitation schedule is not crafted to meet L.L.’s best interests, given how quickly the order increases visitation time and frequency. Robb would remand for the visitation to occur twice a month for two hours under mother’s supervision, with any modifications to be made only after a report to the court.

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April 10

Civil Plenary – Zoning/Judicial Review

HRC Hotels, LLC v. Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals Division II of Marion County, Indiana, Jeffrey R. Baumgarth and The Myers Y. Cooper Company

49A04-1307-PL-313

The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a Marion County court to hear the merits of a hotel’s petition for judicial review of the zoning board’s decision to grant a variance to a develop a pet daycare facility next door to the hotel.

The Marion County Metropolitan Development Commission Board of Zoning Appeals granted Myers Y. Cooper Corp.’s request for a variance to build the pet daycare in Indianapolis. I-465 LLC, owner of an adjacent Hilton Homewood Suits Hotel, protested, arguing noise caused by the pets would disrupt guests. I-465 LLC’s parent company, HRC Hotels LLC, timely filed a petition for judicial review.

Myers Cooper claimed the parent company lacked standing to file the petition for judicial review. After the 30-day deadline to file a review petition had passed, HRC Hotels filed a motion to amend the petition to substitute I-465 LLC as the real party in interest. The trial court dismissed the petition, concluding HRC Hotels lacked standing to file the petition for judicial review, so the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.

The Court of Appeals reversed.

“Here, the fact that HRC Hotels lacks standing because it did not appear before the BZA is not a ‘real jurisdictional problem.’ We understand real jurisdictional problems to be when the trial court renders a decision in a case that it has not been granted the power to decide,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

The lack of standing at the time the petition is filed is a procedural error, she continued, that does not deprive the court of jurisdiction to hear the petition. The trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over HRC Hotels’ petition independent of whether HRC Hotels may have lacked standing when it filed its petition.

“Here, I-465 LLC, as the owner of the hotel adjacent to the Property, is a true owner of the right sought to be enforced. Moreover, HRC Hotels filed its motion to amend its petition and substitute I-465 LLC as the real party in interest exactly thirty days after Myers Cooper filed its motion to dismiss for lack of standing,” she wrote. “Because this Court allowed a substitution under Trial Rule 17(A)(2) sixty-four days after the defendant objected, we find a substitution after thirty days to be reasonable.”

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April 14

Domestic Relation – College Expenses/Transcript

Ball State University v. Jennifer Irons, In re the Marriage of: Jennifer Irons, Wife, and Scott Irons, Husband

45A03-1307-DR-296

A divided panel on the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed Ball State University’s appeal of the order that it release the transcript of a student who left the school and owes tuition. The student’s mother added the university to her petition seeking to require her ex-husband to contribute to their child’s college expenses.

Jennifer Irons filed the petition for modification in May 2011, seeking in part an order that Scott Irons contribute to daughter Jordan Iron’s college expenses at Ball State. She attended the school in the fall of 2011 but withdrew in early 2012, leaving an unpaid tuition balance. Jordan is unable to enroll at another college because Ball State will not release her transcript until the tuition is paid.

Jennifer Irons added the school to the complaint because the trial court was unable to fully adjudicate the issues, as future college expenses couldn’t be completely determined until Jordan enrolled at Indiana University Northwest.

Ball State sought to dismiss with prejudice the claim against it, arguing Jordan had no right to her transcript unless she paid the balance on her tuition. The trial court, noting this is an issue of first impression, ordered the university to release the transcript. Lake Circuit Judge George C. Paras also wrote in the order that the Legislature hasn’t created a statutory lien that would allow the university to withhold a transcript for failure to pay tuition.

Ball State appealed, but Jennifer Irons claimed that the order was interlocutory and the university had to have the order certified. Ball State claimed it properly filed the appeal under Ind. App. Rule 14(A).

“We conclude that the order does not fall under Appellate Rule 14(A)(3). The delivery of Jordan’s official transcript does not ‘import a surrender’ as contemplated by the rule. Whether the delivery disposes of all claims and relief sought against BSU does not determine whether a surrender has occurred,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the majority, which includes Judge Margret Robb. “Giving Jennifer a copy of Jordan’s official transcript does not remove the official transcript from BSU’s control.”

“Although BSU did not have a right to appeal the trial court’s order compelling the delivery of the transcript under Appellate Rule 14(A)(3), it could have asked the trial court to certify the order for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Appellate Rule 14(B). Because BSU failed to have the order properly certified, we must dismiss this appeal,” he wrote.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented on this issue, believing that the order does constitute an interlocutory appeal of right – either under Rule 14(A)(3) or Appellate Rule 14(A)(8).

“BSU is not simply appealing a discovery order which requires parties to a lawsuit to produce documents which could be used as evidence at trial. The appealed order is a dispositive order as to BSU as it serves to dispose of all claims and relief sought against BSU,” she wrote.

The judges all agreed that Jennifer Irons should be denied appellate attorney fees.

__________

April 15

Criminal – Probation Revocation

Lucas H. Jackson v. State of Indiana

62A04-1311-CR-563

A Perry County trial court abused its discretion in revoking a man’s probation based solely on being charged with a new offense, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Lucas Jackson was on probation in Indiana when he moved to Kentucky and had his probation transferred there. A condition of his probation stated that he “shall not commit any act(s) which would be a crime during the period of the probation.”

The state alleged Jackson violated his probation when he was indicted in Kentucky on charges of sexual abuse involving a 12-year-old victim. The indictment was the only evidence introduced during a hearing on the probation violation. His probation officer testified the grand jury indictment constituted a violation of Jackson’s probation. Perry Circuit Judge Mary Lucille Goffinet concluded Jackson violated his probation and at another hearing, revoked it and ordered Jackson serve his previously suspended sentence.

The Court of Appeals reversed because his probation was revoked based solely on the charges in Kentucky being filed against him. The state has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Jackson committed the offense, which it did not do in this case, the judges held.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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