Shorter and not so sweet?

June 17, 2008
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Short and straight to the point. That describes a not-for-publication opinion from the Court of Appeals Monday, in Evan Erby v. State of Indiana, No. 18A02-0711-CR-977. Two sentences sum up this case, referring to an Indiana Supreme Court ruling last year about sentencing in a post-Blakely world. This time, Erby challenged a 10-year sentence for armed robbery, and the COA panel noted that the justices specifically rejected a similar argument in Anglemeyer v. State, 868 N.E.2d 482, 491 (Ind. 2007), in holding that trial courts no longer have to “properly weigh” aggravators and mitigators in sentencing.

While this may not be unique in that it’s the shortest opinion ever, it’s the shortest we can recall seeing in awhile. Sure, it’s an NFP and isn’t citable or precedent-setting. Maybe this shortness also signals a trend we’ll be seeing more at our intermediate appellate court, where caseloads continue increasing to the tune of an expected 3,100-plus opinions by the end of the year – an average of about 2.2 opinions per judge per day. That means less time and less review for each case, though not necessarily less quality. While it may not be evident here, some could probably raise the quantity vs. quality argument when pondering the increasing workload. We have a story in our latest issue of Indiana Lawyer about how the COA focused in 2007 on improving efficiency in the wake of higher caseloads. Will this be used as ammunition in the case for a new sixth appellate panel, which has been discussed for some time and is being explored by an interim legislative study committee?

A recent post on the Carroll County Courts blog noted the consequences of budgetary problems and how a judge might feel without adequate staff. We wondered if this is how the Court of Appeals and other judges feel about their increasing caseloads. Take a look. (http://carrollcountycourts.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-happens-when-you-cant-keep-up.html)
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  • A fuller explanation of the reasons for the 1-page opinion is not hard to find. A recent opinion HIGHLY critical of the same public defender in another appeal shows the reason. See State v. Matthew Johnson, http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05290802mgr.pdf.
    Although the opinions contains other critical comments as well, the following footnote best illustrates why the court gave such short shrift to this PD\'s argument in the 1 paragraph opinion.

    5. We note that this court has found it necessary on several previous occasions to remind Johnson’s counsel that arguments must be supported by cogent argument and applicable authority. See Tamsett v. State, 879 N.E.2d 1231, 2008 WL 204698 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008) (unpublished opinion) (noting that counsel cited an outdated version of Rule 7(B)); Gray v. State, 876 N.E.2d 387, 2007 WL 3244230 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (unpublished opinion) (noting that counsel cited an outdated version of Rule 7(B), and “caution[ing] counsel to conduct a more thorough legal research process in the future”); Stanley v. State, 874 N.E.2d 650, 2007 WL 2916451 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (unpublished opinion) (holding issue waived based on failure to make a cogent argument or cite to relevant authority); Ruble v. State, 873 N.E.2d 202, 2007 WL 2473232 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (unpublished opinion) (indicating that counsel “misstates the issue,” and cites authorities that are “either obsolete, inapplicable, repealed or replaced by other authorities,” and declining to address the merits based on counsel’s failure to make cogent argument); Sharp v. State, 835 N.E.2d 1079, 1084 n.8 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005) (holding argument waived based on failure to make cogent argument). We urge counsel to perform adequate research and put forth cogent arguments for his clients, who have a constitutional right to effective assistance of appellate counsel.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. 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.

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

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