Santa Claus' letters are safe, for now

June 9, 2011
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An interesting footnote in an Indiana Court of Appeals opinion on a counterfeit case makes reference to letters from Santa Claus.

Patrick Trainor got a ticket for making an illegal U-turn and decided he should “prank” the ticketing officer by ordering items under the officer’s name and sending them to the officer’s house. The officer refused the items and discovered many other items Trainor ordered using the officer’s name. If the officer hadn’t caught it, he could have had his credit ruined as some outstanding bills had been turned over to collections.

In the opinion, Trainor argued that he hadn’t committed counterfeiting as defined by Indiana Code 35-43-5-2. He claimed the order forms he filled out in the officer’s name weren’t “written instruments” as defined by the counterfeiting statute because they “have no value, they create no privilege, and they aren’t objects of identification.”

The appellate court rejected Trainor’s arguments and upheld his convictions and sentence.

As I read the opinion, the footnote to a sentence made me chuckle.

“The order forms undoubtedly constitute papers, documents, or other instruments containing written matter, and thus fall within the statutory definition of written instrument.” In a footnote to this sentence, Judge Paul Mathias wrote, “Our holding is limited to the facts and circumstances before us. We do not consider whether letters from Santa Claus and the like constitute prosecutable crimes.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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