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Court says why it removed special prosecutor

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The Indiana Supreme Court released an original action Nov. 13 explaining why it ordered an appointed special prosecutor in Delaware County removed from a case.

The high court issued Oct. 16 its permanent writ of mandamus in which it granted the petition of relief of Adrian D. Kirtz. Kirtz claimed Delaware Circuit Court No. 5 and Judge Thomas A. Cannon Jr. exceeded their jurisdiction and failed when under a duty to act by appointing J.A. Cummins as the special prosecuting attorney in Kirtz's pending criminal case. A special prosecutor was appointed because Kirtz had been a cooperating witness in several cases - pending and closed - in state and federal court, and the Delaware County prosecutor wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

In that writ, the justices said they may issue an order or opinion explaining their reasons for the grant. They did that Friday, detailing why it could be viewed as inappropriate to have Cummins serve as the special prosecutor.

Cummins is the brother-in-law of attorney Michael Alexander, the man against whom Kirtz recently testified in a different criminal case. Alexander was charged with bribery and Kirtz, as a former client of Alexander's, was one of the state's material witnesses against the attorney. Cummins attended some of the trial and was there when Kirtz testified. Alexander was found not guilty. Just a few weeks later, Cummins was appointed to prosecute Kirtz.

The trial court didn't believe the family relationship between Cummins and Alexander would create an appearance of impropriety, but the justices saw otherwise. Cummins had expressed an interest in the Alexander case and attended some of the trial to show his support for his family.

"The issue here is not whether Cummins has a grudge against Kirtz or some other motivation to prosecute him more harshly; nor is the issue whether Cummins can set aside any personal feelings or interests he may have, fairly prosecute Kirtz, and effectively represent the State," the per curiam opinion stated. "The issue is one of appearance: whether Cummins's appointment created the appearance of impropriety."

Cummins' appointment, given the totality of the circumstances, would allow an objective observer reasonably to question whether his relationship with Alexander and Kirtz's role in that case would affect the prosecution of Kirtz.

"Public trust in the integrity of the judicial process requires us to resolve serious doubt in favor of a prosecutor's disqualification," wrote the court.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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