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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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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