ILNews

High court adopts 'substantial trustworthiness' test

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court has adopted a "substantial trustworthiness" test to determine the reliability of hearsay evidence in probation revocation hearings.

A 5-0 decision came today in George Reyes v. State of Indiana, 01S02-0612-CR-495, which comes from Adams Circuit Court and involves a man once convicted and imprisoned for aggravated battery. Reyes began probation in 2000 after his release from prison, but in February 2005 his probation officer filed a violation petition because Reyes tested positive for marijuana. An agreement with the state meant that he wouldn't have to serve the entire suspended sentence if no new drugs appeared during a second test. During a hearing, the trial court allowed affidavits to be entered showing Reyes had used cocaine before the collection despite Reyes' counsel objections to that as hearsay.

The Court of Appeals rejected Reyes' argument that the evidence admitted violated his due process rights to confront a witness, and the state asked the justices to clarify a standard for which a trial court should judge the admission of evidence challenged by a probationer on confrontation grounds.

Prior to this decision, courts had used two principal methods for determining this admissibility: the "substantial trustworthiness test" and a "balancing test" weighing the probationer's interest in confronting the declarant against the State's interest in not producing the same.

Court of Appeals judges applied a balancing test in this case, though the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has used the "substantial trustworthiness" test, Justice Sullivan wrote. He wrote the latter incorporates good cause into its calculus and is the more effective means.

"The substantial trustworthiness test also provides a clearer standard," he wrote. "A balancing test in which a trial court weights the probationer's interest in confrontation against the State's good cause for not producing a witness is too unwieldy a method for everyday use in a proceeding as common as a probation revocation hearing. ..."

In the end, justices affirmed the holding of the Court of Appeals that the affidavits were properly admitted but held that the trial court should have applied a test of "substantial trustworthiness."
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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