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COA: Park ban violates ex post facto laws

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Relying heavily on a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision regarding sex offenders and ex post facto laws, the Indiana Court of Appeals split in finding a city ordinance banning a convicted sex offender who no longer has to register with the state was punitive and unconstitutional as applied to him.

In Eric Dowdell v. City of Jeffersonville, No. 10A04-0811-CV-676, the appellate court used the recent rulings from the Supreme Court in Wallace v. State and another panel of the Court of Appeals in Doe v. Plainfield, 893 N.E.2d 1124 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), which concerned a similar ordinance and is pending transfer.

Jeffersonville passed an ordinance in 2006 prohibiting sex offenders from entering public parks with very limited exemptions, such as to watch a minor relative play a sport. The sex offender must demonstrate good cause as to why he or she should be allowed into the park. Eric Dowdell was convicted of sexual battery in 1996, served his sentence, and was no longer required to register by the time the city passed the park ban. Dowdell sought a waiver to enter the park to be allowed to play a sport himself, which was denied twice by a City Court judge. He is appealing the denial of one of those requests.

Dowdell brought the suit for injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming the ordinance is facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied to him. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city.

Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Michael Barnes agreed with Dowdell and reversed summary judgment in favor of Jeffersonville. Although the majority declined to address his facial challenge because of the precedent set by Doe, it did find the ordinance to be unconstitutional as applied to him by using the seven factors set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168-169 (1963).

The majority cited the Indiana Supreme Court's reasoning in Wallace to support their conclusion that six out of the seven factors - affirmative disability or restraint; sanctions that have historically been considered punishment; finding of scienter; traditional aims of punishment; application only to criminal behavior; and excessiveness - were punitive as applied to Dowdell.

The majority came to a different conclusion in some areas of the factors test than the panel that decided Doe, which the chief judge noted came down before Wallace was decided. The panel in Doe gave little or no weight to the factor of traditional aims of punishment, but this panel believed the factor is significant.

"We hold that as applied to Dowdell, the Ordinance violates the prohibition on ex post facto laws contained in the Indiana Constitution because it imposes burdens that have the effect of adding punishment beyond that which could have been imposed when his crime was committed," wrote Chief Judge Baker.

Judge Terry Crone came to a different conclusion in his dissent when he weighed the seven factors and believed the ordinance to be constitutional when applied to Dowdell. He only found two to be punitive when applied in this situation. He noted that while he is somewhat troubled by the limited nature of the available exemption for convicted sex-offenders, there is a mechanism in which Dowdell and others can seek relief and appeal if they are denied.

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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