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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. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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