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Court divided on invasion of privacy charge

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The Indiana Court of Appeals split today as to whether a woman who had an order for protection against her should have been convicted of invasion of privacy when she spoke to the protected party during a court hearing.

Kimberly Thomas had an ex parte order for protection issued against her that prevented her from “harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting or directly or indirectly communicating” with James Smith. While that order was in effect, the trial court held a hearing on the matter with both parties present. Thomas told Smith to stop calling her at the end of the hearing and in the court’s presence. She was immediately arrested and charged with Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy.

The trial court found she violated the order and convicted her. Thomas argued there wasn’t enough evidence to show she acted with the mens rea to commit invasion of privacy because the “courtroom is a neutral zone where some terms of the protective order are naturally suspended” to conduct judicial proceedings. She argued that her statement was a gross violation of decency and decorum and that she should be held in contempt.

In Kimberly Thomas v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1002-CR-105, Judges Elaine Brown and Carr Darden believed given the context of this case that the judge should have used direct contempt to punish Thomas for her statement. They reversed her conviction and remanded for the trial court to resume direct contempt proceedings to address her comment if the court chooses to do so.

Judge Cale Bradford dissented, finding nothing in Indiana statute would have precluded the state from filing the invasion of privacy charge. He agreed that direct contempt proceedings would have been the “more efficient and preferred remedy” but the “statute plainly states that a person who violates a protective order commits invasion of privacy.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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