ILNews

Court criticizes appellate attorney for not citing material

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's decision that a man convicted of felony forgery must submit a DNA sample.

But that's only part of today's seven-page decision in James Keeney v. State of Indiana, No. 21A01-0611-CR-495, which goes on to admonish an appellate attorney who filed a brief with uncited material.

In this case, Keeney challenged last year Fayette Circuit Judge Daniel Pflum's order, which said Keeney needed to submit a DNA sample after pleading guilty to forgery and receiving a four-year sentence. Some of that time was suspended and ordered for home detention, and Keeney objected to the order on grounds of a Untied States Supreme Court decision last year. The appeals court agreed with the state that the higher ruling isn't enough to overrule the state law and previous court decisions, and affirmed the sentence.

But the ruling didn't end there.

"Unfortunately, we must call attention to the fact that the appellate attorney for Keeney has filled her brief with uncited material," the court wrote.

"... The importance of proper attribution cannot be understated. While lawyers and judges regularly borrow reasoning from others, both ethics and the appellate rules require that the source be given credit. Nonetheless, Keeney's appellate attorney merely transplanted the [U.S. District Court of Massachusetts'] order into her brief as if it was her own work," the court continued.

The court wrote that the brief's entire "argument" section is a near-verbatim replication of a recent memorandum and order in a case that isn't cited or relied on in Keeney's appeal. The "inadequate" brief did not advance any argument or help Keeney's case, the court wrote.

"We confine our criticism here to an admonishment," the court wrote, noting that it had the authority to strike the brief, order the appellate attorney to receive no fee or return with interest any fee already received, refer the matter to the Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission for investigation of potential rule violation, or to hold the attorney in contempt. "We choose, however, not to sanction Keeney's attorney beyond the reprimand within this opinion."

The attorney called out in the ruling is Sarah Nagy of Indianapolis

"If I made a mistake, all I can do is learn from it and try not to do it again," Nagy said this afternoon, noting she'd not yet read the opinion and was shocked to learn about the admonishment. "No one's perfect, and if we do something wrong, that's why we have judges, to help us learn from it."
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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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