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. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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