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Editorial: Threats are inappropriate way to voice an opinion

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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Unless you’ve been under a rock of late, you know that the Indiana Supreme Court decided Richard L. Barnes v. State on May 12.

In that case, Barnes appealed his misdemeanor convictions of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct. Police were responding to a domestic violence call from Barnes’ wife; he was leaving the apartment they shared and was in the parking lot when police arrived. He went back to the apartment to get more of his belongings, and when police tried to enter the apartment, Barnes blocked their way. When an officer further attempted to enter the apartment, Barnes shoved the officer against a wall and a struggle ensued between the two.

Barnes’ counsel wanted to offer a jury instruction at trial on the right of a citizen to reasonably resist unlawful entry into the citizen’s home, but the trial court refused. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, and said the missing jury instruction was not harmless error.

Writing for the 3-2 majority, Justice Steven David wrote that the right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

“Nowadays, an aggrieved arrestee has means unavailable at common law for redress against unlawful police action,” wrote Justice David, citing bail and the exclusionary rule as examples. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest — as evident by the facts of this instant case.” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan voted with Justice David.

Much has been said and will doubtless continue to be said about this ruling. Media outlets one typically doesn’t associate with relevant discourse on such weighty matters have been heard discussing the ruling. That’s a great thing – everyone should know and talk about the decisions of our judicial system that directly impact our lives.

What we want to address here is the troubling descent into madness that has appeared alongside the reasonable discourse on the subject. Some of the discourse quickly reached the point where police were called to investigate threats, veiled and otherwise. The troubling comments come from a few people who purport to defend their own liberties and their interpretations of the Constitution at the expense of the safety of us all.

We fully support the right of people to express their opinions in support of and in opposition to the ruling. We’re staunch supporters of the First Amendment.

But instead of calling our justices names and questioning their political loyalties, advocating the purchase of large amounts of ammunition and threatening to shoot any police officer who dares to darken a doorstep, we wish those who would advocate against the ruling would take a lesson or two from our two justices who each wrote in dissent of the decision: Justices Robert Rucker and Brent Dickson, as well as the Indiana State Bar Association that responded to reaction.

Justice Dickson wrote that he would have preferred a more narrow approach. “… a more cautious revision of the common law would have, in cases not involving domestic violence, left in place the historic right of people to reasonably resist unlawful police entry in their dwellings,” he wrote.

Justice Rucker wrote that the majority’s ruling was far too broad. “There is simply no reason to abrogate the common law right of a citizen to resist the unlawful police entry into his or her home,” he wrote.

Both are forceful in their arguments, as well as eloquent and persuasive. And both are pitch-perfect examples of how to make an argument without resorting to threats. The ISBA is also encouraging all criticism and discourse to be made in a respectful manner, excluding personal and inflammatory attacks on individual judges and law enforcement officials. We wish some of the people who are arguing against this ruling would take them for an example to follow.•

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  • Tort Claim Simplification Legislation Is Needed
    One of the reasons which Justice David uses to support his conclusion is that of "The Development of alternative remedies by an aggrieved arrestee." If he is referring to the tort claim procedure, much needs to be done to make the tort claim procedure a practical reality such as a uniform time limit for claims against all State and local police agencies and a single person or entity for naming the appropriate defendant and a single person or entity for service of process. Additionally there should be a requirement of a detailed investigation of a tort claim and a detailed response other than claim denied.

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  1. 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.

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

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

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