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Indiana Court Decisions - June 26 to July 9, 2013

IL Staff
July 17, 2013
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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

June 26

Civil – Malicious Prosecution

Michael Alexander v. United States of America

12-2190

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision by a federal court in Indianapolis that dismissed a Muncie criminal defense attorney’s lawsuit against the United States for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Michael Alexander brought the suit after he was acquitted on charges of bribery in 2009.

Alexander was arrested in 2008 based on false and manipulated evidence, according to court documents. FBI agents suspected that Alexander’s longtime investigator, Jeff Hinds, was bribing witnesses in cases involving Alexander’s clients. Alexander denied any knowledge of the bribery, but the investigation continued when Mark McKinney became Delaware County prosecutor in 2007. The two had a contentious history due to Alexander’s criticism of how McKinney handled drug forfeitures when he was a city attorney.

Witnesses gave false testimony at Alexander’s trial and recordings involving Alexander were manipulated. Alexander was acquitted of the charge.

Alexander brought his suit, alleging the arrest and trial was distressing and damaged his reputation and hurt his practice. The District Court dismissed the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), finding he failed to state a claim for malicious prosecution and the IIED claim was untimely.

Under Indiana law, malicious prosecution requires a plaintiff establish: 1) the defendant instituted or caused to be instituted an action against the plaintiff; 2) the defendant acted with malice in doing so; 3) the defendant had no probable cause to institute the action; and 4) the original action was terminated in the plaintiff’s favor.

At issue in the case are the first three factors. The 7th Circuit found Alexander’s complaint adequately alleged that he was prosecuted in the absence of probable cause and adequately pleaded malice.

“In our view, the court asked too much of Alexander,” Judge Diane Wood wrote. “Unfortunately, in a world where public corruption is hardly unknown, we cannot agree that Alexander’s complaint is too implausible to hold together absent allegations of this sort. We might wish to live in a world in which such an egregious abuse of one’s official position would be unthinkable, but experience suggests that we do not.”

The judges also found the IIED claim was timely filed and adequately states a claim.

“The conduct described in the complaint is extreme and outrageous (as well as criminal), and there are sufficient allegations to support the inferences both that this conduct was intended to cause Alexander severe emotional distress and that Alexander suffered such emotional distress as a result of his ordeal,” she wrote.

The case is remanded for further proceedings.
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July 8

Civil – False Claims Act/Sanctions

Debra Leveski v. ITT Educational Services, Inc. and Appeals of: Motley Rice LLP, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, The Law Offices of Timothy J. Matusheski and Timothy J. Matusheski

12-1369, 12-1967, 12-1979, 12-2008, 12-2891

After finding that a federal court in Indianapolis erred in dismissing a former ITT Educational Services Inc. employee’s False Claims Act lawsuit, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the nearly $350,000 in sanctions imposed against three law firms representing the woman.

Debra Leveski worked at ITT for more than 10 years – first as an inside recruitment representative, then as a financial aid administrator. After she left the company following the settlement of a sexual harassment suit she filed against ITT, she was contacted by Mississippi attorney Timothy J. Mathusheski. The attorney sought former ITT employees to bring an FCA suit.

Leveski, who had been told by supervisors and other employees that her pay increases as a recruit representative and financial aid administrator depended on the number of students who, among other things, enrolled and received financial aid, decided to file the suit on behalf of the government in 2007. Indianapolis firm Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP and Motley Rice LLP, headquartered in Charleston, S.C., later joined as Leveski’s attorneys along with Mathusheski.

The suit alleges that ITT, headquartered in Carmel, knowingly submitted false claims to the Department of Education in order to receive funding from federal student financial assistance programs. The suit survived two motions to dismiss in District Court, although the timeframe in the suit was limited to July 2001 to July 2007. But when the case was transferred to Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, she dismissed it for want of jurisdiction. Walton Pratt said Leveski’s allegations had already been publicly disclosed in United States ex rel. Graves v. ITT Educ. Servs. Inc., 284 F. Supp. 2d 487 (S.D. Tex. 2003), and she was not the original source of her allegations. The judge also sanctioned the three firms and Mathusheski $394,998.33 for filing a suit she deemed frivolous.

The 7th Circuit found Leveski’s allegations are not substantially similar to the relators’ allegations in Graves. In Graves, two former employees who worked for ITT as inside recruitment representatives for less than two years alleged ITT violated the Higher Education Act by illegally paying incentive compensation to its RRs. The law in effect at the time of the lawsuit prohibited adjusting compensation for student recruiters and financial aid officers based solely on the number of students recruited, admitted, enrolled or awarded financial aid.

The sham compensation scheme and the financial aid violations alleged by Leveski are different than the outright quota system alleged by the Graves relators, Judge John D. Tinder wrote. And those allegations are different enough from the Graves allegations to bring her suit outside the public disclosure bar of 31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4).

“We believe that Leveski’s case is yet another instance of a district court dismissing an FCA suit after viewing the allegations at too high a level of generality,” Tinder concluded.

Her case rests on genuinely new and material information, so the District Court had subject-matter jurisdiction over her case under Section 3730(e)(4)(A). The judges also found that Leveski has direct and independent knowledge of her allegations, and thus, is the original source of them.

Because the 7th Circuit found the case merits further development and Leveski’s allegations are sufficiently distinct from prior public disclosures, the sanctions against the law firms also were reversed.
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July 9

Civil – Retaliation/Police Dept.

Roger L. Peele v. Clifford Burch, individually and as Portage Police Department Chief, et al.

12-3562

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed summary judgment in favor of two Portage police officers and the city on a detective’s claim that he was transferred in retaliation for comments he made to a local newspaper following the mayoral primary election in 2007.

Roger Peele supported Steve Charnetzky’s Democratic primary campaign for mayor of Portage and worked on his campaign in his spare time. Charnetzky lost the primary to Olga Velazquez, who was endorsed by Porter County Sheriff David Lain. Peele spoke to the Northwest Indiana Times on May 8, 2007, criticizing coverage of the race and Lain’s endorsement. He said referring to Lain, “He won’t get any support here.”

The next day, the comments were published in the paper. On May 10, Peele was transferred to the desk-bound position of station duty officer by police chief Clifford Burch. Peele sued Burch, assistant chief Larry Jolley and the city, alleging retaliation and defamation.

Peele only argued on appeal that the defendants punished him for his political speech in violation of the First Amendment.

The timing of his transfer was highly suspicious, the 7th Circuit noted. The court also pointed to the deposition of Joe Radic, the officer who held the station duty officer position prior to Peele. According to Radic, Burch told him that he would not have to work as the station duty officer any more because Peele was being transferred to the position because he “made the mayor mad.” This reference to the mayor was to Velazquez, who would presumably become mayor.

“If genuine, Burch’s statements would provide powerful evidence that Peele’s transfer was politically motivated. We think this evidence, combined with the suspicious timing of the transfer, could be enough to lead a reasonable jury to decide in Peele’s favor,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote.

This evidence also casts doubt on the defendants’ claims that they decided to transfer Peele on May 4 for other reasons but waited to tell him until May 10. The 7th Circuit remanded for further proceedings.

Indiana Supreme Court

June 25

Criminal – Murder/Bail

Loren Hamilton Fry v. State of Indiana

09S00-1205-CR-361

After requiring for nearly 150 years that a defendant charged with murder or treason be required to prove he or she is entitled to bail, a divided Indiana Supreme Court ruled it now falls upon the state to show that “the proof is evident or the presumption strong” that the defendant is guilty and not entitled to bail.

The majority on the high court also affirmed the finding that Indiana Code 35-3-8-2(b), which says a person charged with murder has the burden of proof that he should be admitted to bail, is unconstitutional.

Justice Steven David wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice Dickson and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush. Loren Fry is charged with murder in Cass County and sought bail, claiming the state’s evidence against him was circumstantial. He also sought a declaration that I.C. 35-33-8-2(b), which places on the defendant charged with murder the burden of proving why he should be admitted to bail, is unconstitutional.

The right to bail is also outlined in Article 1, Section 17 of the Indiana Constitution, which says murder or treason are not bailable when the proof is evident or the presumption strong. The section does not say who bears the burden of proof.

David pointed out that the burden on the defendant has been in place since a case from 1866, and the caselaw supporting it involved people charged under grand jury investigations and habeas corpus cases. The majority decided that it is fair that the party seeking to apply the exception to the right to bail – the state – should be the one required to prove it.

The opinion also outlines what is contemplated by the burden assigned to the state as to when the proof is evident or the presumption strong. David also cautioned that the opinion shouldn’t be construed to modify – either enhance or diminish – the due process protections that have always been required at bail hearings. The high court affirmed the denial of bail for Fry because the trial court directed the state to proceed first and present its evidence to show that the proof was evident or the presumption strong.

Dickson wrote in a concurring opinion joined by Rush that “I am convinced that the standard established today represents a proper understanding and application of the Indiana Constitution’s Right to Bail Clause.”

Justice Mark Massa agreed with the decision to deny Fry bail, but dissented on the majority’s holding that I.C. 35-33-8-2(b) is unconstitutional. He joined Justice Robert Rucker’s dissent, but wrote separately to reaffirm and support the high court’s past precedent and longstanding adherence to “an originalist interpretation of our state constitution.”

Rucker concurred with Massa’s dissent, and wrote that he believed the court didn’t need to address the constitutional issue at all.

Civil Tort – Home Defects/Liability

Barbara A. Johnson and William T. Johnson, Both Individually and as Trustees of the Barbara A. Johnson Living Trust Dated 12-17-1996 v. Joseph Wysocki and M. Carmen Wysocki

45S04-1211-CT-634

A Lake County dispute over whether a buyer or seller is responsible for a few thousand dollars worth of home defects is headed back to the trial court after a divided Indiana Supreme Court ordered a legal do-over.

Justice Steven David wrote that the trial court applied the incorrect standard in ordering the sellers to pay the buyers a little more than $13,000 for repairs that had to be made after closing. The sellers represented in disclosure forms that they knew of no defects, and the buyers relied on that when they ordered a cursory inspection that turned up no problems.

The trial court found that the issues raised in the complaint “should have been obvious” to the sellers, a standard that David wrote was lower than “actual knowledge.” “This means that the trial court here applied the wrong legal standard to the facts, even assuming that those facts are sufficiently supported by the record. The judgment is therefore clearly erroneous,” David wrote.

“We reverse the trial court and remand for new findings pursuant to this opinion,” David wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in part and dissented in part. Agreeing that the trial court applied the wrong legal standards to facts of the case, and that Indiana’s Disclosure statutes don’t trump the common law “caveat emptor” principle, Rucker said the trial court nevertheless decided the case on the facts and the matter didn’t merit revisiting.

“It is certainly true the trial court did not use the magic words ‘actual knowledge,’” Rucker wrote in the one-paragraph dissent of a 16-page opinion. “But as recounted in the Facts section of the majority opinion, the record before us is more than sufficient to support the conclusion that the Johnsons had such knowledge of the various defects prior to the time they sold the property to the Wysockis. I would therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court in all respects and put this litigation to rest.”

Domestic Relation – Parenting Time/Child Support

Michael D. Perkinson, Jr. v. Kay Char Perkinson

36S05-1206-DR-371

The Indiana Supreme Court had harsh words for parents and attorneys who enter into agreements that stipulate giving up parenting time in lieu of paying child support. There must be extraordinary circumstances to justify denying parenting time.

“The concept of parents negotiating away parenting time as a means to eliminate the obligation to pay child support is repugnant and contrary to public policy. Attorneys should refuse to be a part of such discussion and should advise their clients that any such discussion is unacceptable,” Justice Steven David wrote.

When Michael D. Perkinson and Kay Char Perkinson divorced in February 2006, they entered into an agreement in which Michael Perkinson would waive his parenting time rights to daughter L.P. in exchange for Kay Perkinson assuming sole financial responsibility and waiving enforcement of the father’s child support arrearage. If he sought parenting time in the future, he would have to pay any arrearage through the date of the approval.

Beginning two years later, father sought modification of parenting time, but each petition was denied by the trial court. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.

“It is incomprehensible to this Court to imagine that either parent would ever stipulate to give up parenting time in lieu of not paying child support,” David wrote. “Just as allowing an agreement purporting to contract away a child’s right to support must be held void, an agreement to contract away a child’s right to parenting time, where the presumption that such parenting time is in the child’s best interest has not been defeated, must also be held void as a matter of public policy. Every child deserves better than to be treated as nothing more than a bargaining chip.”

Extraordinary circumstances must exist to deny parenting time to a parent, which necessarily denies the same to the child. Looking at the case before them, mother didn’t offer any evidence, such as therapist reports or expert testimony to show that parenting time between her ex-husband and L.P. would not be in the child’s best interest. The only evidence regarding endangerment was the testimony of the mother.

The trial court has many tools at its disposal, such as ordering phased-in professionally guided supervised visitation at father’s expense or the appointment of a GAL or CASA to investigate and make recommendations to the court.

The case is remanded for more proceedings.
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June 28

Post Conviction – Jury Instruction/Mentally Ill

Brad W. Passwater v. State of Indiana

48S05-1210-PC-583

Although it affirmed the judgment of the post-conviction court in denying relief, the Indiana Supreme Court endorsed a change in jury instructions regarding mentally ill defendants.

Brad Passwater appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in part, because the instructions approved by the Indiana Supreme Court were misleading, leaving the jury to believe he could be released from an outpatient facility 90 days after being found guilty of murder.

At his trial for the murder of his mother, Passwater’s counsel requested jury instruction on the penal consequences of guilty but mentally ill and not responsible by reason of insanity verdicts. Instead, the trial court gave the instructions approved by the state Supreme Court in Georgopulos v. State 735 N.E. 2d 1138, 1143 n.3 (Ind. 2000).

The Indiana Supreme Court reconsidered the Georgopulos instructions which are given in cases where the jury is faced with the option of finding a defendant not responsible by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill.

The court noted the second part of the Georgopulos instruction tried to synthesize the relevant portions of the state statutes. However, the court emphasized the composite is not without flaws.

Specifically, the approved Georgopulos instructions includes the phrase: “If, upon the completion of the hearing, the court finds that defendant is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled, then the court may order the defendant to be committed to an appropriate facility, or enter an outpatient treatment program of not more than ninety (90) days.”

The court then turned to the instruction provided in the Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction 11.20.

There, the phrase is rewritten as: “If the court finds that the Defendant is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled then the court may order the Defendant to be either placed in an outpatient treatment program of not more than ninety (90) days, or committed to an appropriate mental health facility until a court determines commitment is no longer needed.”

Writing for the court, Justice Robert Rucker concluded, “We are of the view that the Pattern Instruction represents an improvement over the instruction this Court found appropriate in Georgopulos and thus endorse and approve its use.”


Mandate for Funds – Marion County Small Claims Court

In Re Mandate of Funds for Center Township of Marion County Small Claims Court Order for Mandate and Mandate of Funds

49S00-1207-MF-420

See story on page 17.
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July 1

Juvenile – Sex Offender Registry

N.L. v. State of Indiana

47S01-1302-JV-126

A juvenile who pleaded guilty to what would have been Class D felony sexual battery if committed by an adult should not have been placed on the sex offender registry, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

Justices reversed and remanded the order of a Lawrence Circuit Court judge, holding that the order was neither issued in connection with an evidentiary hearing nor accompanied by findings. Justice Loretta Rush set out the requirements for ordering juveniles to be included in the registry.

“It is well within a trial court’s discretion to hold more than one hearing to determine whether a juvenile’s risk of reoffending warrants placing them on the sex offender registry,” Rush wrote for the court. “But when it does so, every hearing held for that purpose must be an ‘evidentiary hearing’” defined by J.C.C. v. State, 897 N.E.2d 931, 935 (Ind. 2008).

“Juveniles must have the opportunity to challenge the State’s evidence and present evidence of their own; and if an ‘evidentiary hearing’ is continued, they must have continued representation by counsel at the subsequent hearings as well. Finally, the child may not be ordered to register unless the trial court expressly finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child is likely to commit another sex offense – based exclusively on evidence received at such a hearing,” Rush wrote. “Here, the May hearing was not an ‘evidentiary hearing’ as J.C.C. requires; N.L. did not have the benefit of counsel in May, even though he did for the February hearing; and the trial court made no findings about N.L.’s likelihood to reoffend.

“We therefore reverse the order requiring N.L. to register as a sex offender, and remand to the trial court with instructions to conduct a new ‘evidentiary hearing’ as J.C.C. requires to determine whether N.L. is likely to commit another sex offense, and thereafter to make an express finding of whether the State has made that showing by clear and convincing evidence.”
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July 2

Criminal – Sentence/Sexual Misconduct with Minor

Michael Chambers v. State of Indiana

53S01-1307-CR-459

The Indiana Supreme Court reinstated a sentence that imposed maximum consecutive prison terms for a man convicted of two counts of Class B felony sexual misconduct with a minor.

Michael Chambers was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 20 years in prison for an aggregate 40 years by Monroe Circuit Judge Teresa D. Harper. A divided Indiana Court of Appeals held that the sentence was an outlier in comparison to Walker v. State, 747 N.E.2d 536 (Ind. 2001), and Harris v. State, 897 N.E.2d 927, 930 (Ind. 2008), and ordered Chambers’ sentences be served concurrently, reducing the term to an aggregate 20 years in prison.

But justices sided with the dissenter on the COA panel who wrote that Chambers’ criminal history was much more significant than those of the defendants in the cited cases, and therefore the sentence was not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and Chambers’ character.

“Our collective judgment is that the sentence imposed by the trial court in this case is not inappropriate under Appellate Rule 7(B) and does not warrant appellate revision,” read the three-page per curiam opinion. “Accordingly, we grant transfer, affirm the sentence imposed by the trial court, and summarily affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals in all other respects.”

The opinion was joined by all justices. Justice Robert Rucker concurred in the result without a separate opinion.

Indiana Court of Appeals

June 25

Post Conviction – Ineffective Assistance/Double Jeopardy

Timmy T. Zieman v. State of Indiana

45A03-1301-PC-1

A post-conviction court “clearly erred” when it found a man’s trial attorney did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The judges ordered the court to reduce Timmy Zieman’s Class C felony resisting law enforcement conviction to a Class D felony because of a violation of double jeopardy principles.

Zieman fled from police after an argument with his wife and crashed his car into Crown Point Sergeant John Allendorf Jr.’s car, which caused the officer serious bodily injury. Zieman was charged with several counts as a result of the incident, including attempted murder and Class C felony resisting law enforcement resulting in serious bodily injury. He was found guilty but mentally ill.

In his petition for post-conviction relief, Zieman argued his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective because neither challenged his attempted murder conviction and the serious bodily injury element that elevated his resisting law enforcement conviction on double jeopardy grounds. The PCR court denied his petition.

The judges found that the statutory elements test or actual evidence test under Richardson v. State, 717 N.E.2d 32, 49-50 (Ind. 1999), weren’t violated in Zieman’s case. The COA also used common law not governed by the constitutional test set forth in Richardson to evaluate Zieman’s claim. These rules were first enumerated by Justice Frank Sullivan in his concurring opinion in Richardson, one of which prohibits conviction and punishment for an enhancement of a crime where the enhancement is imposed for the same behavior or harm as another crime for which the defendant has been convicted and punished.

“Based on the prosecutor’s arguments to the jury and the lack of specificity in the charging information and jury instructions, we conclude that there is a reasonable possibility that the jury used the evidence of Zieman crashing his vehicle into Sergeant Allendorf’s vehicle and injuring him to establish both the substantial step element of attempted murder and the resulting serious bodily injury element of class C felony resisting law enforcement, resulting in a violation of double jeopardy principles,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

The appellate court ordered that the Class C felony resisting law enforcement conviction be reduced to a Class D felony and that the sentence imposed is the advisory 18 months. It will be served consecutively to Zieman’s attempted murder sentence, for a total executed sentence of 33 1/2 years.
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June 26

Agency Action – Unemployment Benefits/DWD Hearing

Hamilton Heights School Corp. v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and Sherri K. Stepp, and The Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development

93A02-1210-EX-795

The Indiana Court of Appeals was split over whether a notice sent regarding a hearing on unemployment benefits required reversing the grant of benefits because the employer found the notice confusing.

The majority reversed the decision by the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to grant Sherri Stepp unemployment benefits. Stepp worked as a custodian for Hamilton Heights School Corp. when she was fired after an on-the-job argument with a co-worker.

An administrative law judge, through a telephone hearing in July 2012, affirmed that Stepp was ineligible for benefits. Stepp appealed to the review board, which ordered a new hearing because the July hearing was “inadvertently destroyed” before the board could review the ALJ’s decision. The notice sent for the August hearing indicated it would be held in person, but the notice and attached acknowledgement sheet and instructions also included conflicting information that suggested the hearing would be held by telephone.

The school corporation did not show up in person and tried to call in. The ALJ found that Stepp was entitled to benefits because the school corporation did not participate in the hearing.

“Where, as is the case here, a prior hearing was held telephonically and no party has requested an in-person hearing, the conflicting nature of the information contained in these documents and instructions could lead a reasonable person to believe that the hearing would be conducted telephonically,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

“It is especially troublesome that a party could participate in and be successful following a hearing, have that hearing vacated through no fault of its own, be prepared for and willing to participate in a subsequent hearing, and attempt to contact the ALJ when not contacted for the hearing, only to have a ruling issued against it for failure to participate.”

Bradford and Judge Elaine Brown reversed and remanded for a hearing on the merits.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented, pointing to inattentiveness on the part of the school corporation to assume the August hearing would be held by phone.

“We are therefore left with the following legal precedent: an employer is denied due process by failing to participate at an unemployment compensation hearing when such failure is caused by a) the employer’s reliance on procedures followed at a prior hearing and b) its confusion resulting from the language contained in the notice of a subsequent hearing,” Riley wrote, referring to the majority’s decision. “However, I am constrained to find a simple failure to read tantamount to a due process violation.”

Criminal – Rehearing/Theft

Sterlen Shane Keller v. State of Indiana

59A01-1206-CR-271

The Indiana Court of Appeals granted the state’s petition for rehearing in a case in which the defendant stole checks from a man’s mailbox, but affirmed its original decision that the taking of the checks and what the defendant did with them constituted a single continuing act of theft.

In April, the COA reversed several of Sterlen Shane Keller’s theft convictions based on the single larceny rule. He had in his possession a Social Security check and Edward Jones checks that belonged to Robert Collier. He took the checks from Collier’s mailbox on one occasion.

The state argued that Keller made an independent decision to exert control over the three Edward Jones checks by cashing them, which is separate from his taking of the Social Security check from the mailbox.

“Contrary to the State’s assertion, we cannot disregard Keller’s act of taking the checks from the mailbox because that is the point at which Keller began knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over them with the intent to deprive Collier of their value or use,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

“Regardless of what Keller did with the checks after he took them – whether he put them in his garage or cashed them – he committed the offense when he took the checks from Collier’s mailbox and from that point on he committed a single continuing act of theft.”

The judges also weren’t persuaded by the state’s argument that its earlier holding disserves the purpose of the single larceny rule: to punish a single criminal design only once.

“To the extent that Keller’s subsequent decision to cash some of the checks he had taken evidenced an additional criminal design, the State could have charged him with the theft of those funds (as opposed to theft of the checks), forgery, or any other applicable offense,” Barnes wrote. “The State’s decision not to charge Keller for the act of cashing the checks further underscores the importance of the charging documents and its contents.”
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June 27

Criminal – Waiver of Right to Counsel

Timothy W. Parish v. State of Indiana

64A03-1210-CR-438

Finding a defendant did not knowingly or intelligently waive his right to counsel, the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial on strangulation and domestic battery charges.

Timothy Parish was arrested for strangling his live-in fiancée and her 9-year-old son during an argument. He was charged with two counts of Class D felony strangulation and one count of Class D felony domestic battery.

Parish was informed of his right to counsel at the initial hearing. He posted a surety bond and was released from jail. At another hearing, Parish told the court he wasn’t going to hire an attorney and the court didn’t inquire further about the decision to represent himself. Later, he wanted a public defender, so the court asked about his financial status. After learning that Parish owned his home and had around $130,000 equity in it, the judge denied appointing a public defender. Parish was convicted as charged.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in denying Parish counsel at the public expense because Parish did not further explain to the court what his paycheck paid. He posted bond the same day it was set and later hired an attorney to represent him at sentencing.

But, the appeals court ruled, the trial court erred by not advising Parish of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation. The judge made no inquiry into Parish’s decision to represent himself, only gave him one advisement that he was entitled to an attorney, and never investigated his educational background and legal experience.

“The facts and circumstances of this case do not warrant a knowing and intelligent waiver. The importance of the right to counsel cautions that trial courts should at a minimum reasonably inform defendants of the dangers and disadvantages of proceeding without counsel,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.
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June 28

Civil Plenary – Pari-Mutuel Racing/Licensure

Indiana Horse Racing Commission v. Edmund W. Martin, Jr.

49A02-1206-PL-512

A representative of a Thoroughbred horse owners and breeders organization was required to have a license from the Indiana Horse Racing Commission to participate in the group’s activities at the state’s pari-mutuel racetracks, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The panel reversed a Marion Superior Court’s judgment that set aside and vacated an order from the commission barring Edmund Martin Jr. from racetracks because he failed to obtain a license in 2010. Part of Martin’s $41,000 salary is derived from gaming proceeds, according to the record.

As president of the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Martin had meetings at Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Downs at Shelbyville. He was notified by the commission that he would be excluded from tracks until he received a license. He objected, and an administrative law found the exclusion notice was supported by evidence. The commission approved the ALJ’s order extending Martin’s exclusion until July 18, 2012.

A Marion Superior Court ruling vacated the order, but Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the Court of Appeals panel that Martin participated in racing and therefore was required to carry a license.

“Protecting the integrity of the horse racing industry in Indiana is of utmost importance to the IHRC and the General Assembly. The industry ‘has an unsavory, or at least a shadowed, reputation, growing out of a long history of fixing, cheating, doping of horses, illegal gambling, and other corrupt practices.’ [Dimeo v. Griffin, 943 F.2d 679, 681 (7th Cir. 1991).] For this reason, the IHRC reasonably takes a broad view of the phrase ‘participate in racing’ to include those individuals who are directly or indirectly participating in pari-mutuel racing,” Mathias wrote.

“Martin has not established that the IHRC’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, and its decision was supported by substantial evidence. Martin was required to be licensed pursuant to Indiana Code section 4-31-6-1 and rule 5.5-1-1(a) because he was the ITOBA’s executive director in 2010 and an active participant in the ITOBA’s activities at Indiana’s horse racing tracks. For all of these reasons, we reverse the Marion Superior Court’s order setting aside and vacating the IHRC’s order excluding Martin from IHRC grounds and remand this case with instructions to reinstate the IHRC’s order and exclusion notice.”

Civil Plenary – Insurance/Hit-and-Run

Shannon Robinson and Bryan Robinson v. Erie Insurance Exchange

49A02-1211-PL-908

Summary judgment in favor of an insurer should not have been granted in a hit-and-run case, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The court reversed a Marion Superior Court order and held that the hit-and-run driver was uninsured as a matter of law. Judge Melissa May wrote the unanimous seven-page ruling.

Bryan Robinson was the driver of a vehicle struck by a Jeep that fled the crash scene. Robinson a covered driver under a policy held by Shannon, his mother. Bryan wasn’t injured but the vehicle was totaled, and Erie Insurance Exchange denied coverage on the ground that the policy didn’t include collision coverage.

The trial court granted summary judgment for Erie, which argued a hit-and-run driver can’t be identified and no coverage was available under the uninsured driver provision because Bryan wasn’t injured.

“As the car that hit Bryan must be considered an uninsured motor vehicle, Erie’s summary judgment motion should have been denied and Robinson’s should have been granted. We accordingly reverse,” May wrote. 
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July 2

Civil Collection – Class Action/First Impression

Tequita Ramsey v. Lightning Corporation

49A02-1209-CC-705

Even though a trial court initially certified a class in a lawsuit, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled in a case of first impression that the lower court can change its mind.

Tequita Ramsey filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the temporary decertification of a class.

Ramsey originally filed a complaint in small claims court after a car she bought from Lightning Corp., d/b/a/ First Class Car Co., developed mechanical problems the same day she drove it off the lot. She had paid $1,400 toward the purchase price of $1,791.40 and agreed to make payments on the remaining $391.40.

When Lightning refused to refund the money, Ramsey filed the complaint then amended that complaint to include a class-action claim. Specifically, she alleged that the $199 document preparation fee the dealer charged on all its sales was a violation of Indiana Code 9-23-3-6.5.

The trial court granted the class certification order but later granted Lightning’s motion to modify that order. Lightning held Ramsey was not an appropriate class representative because the $1,400 she had paid did not include the $199 document preparation fee.

On appeal, Ramsey countered that she has standing to be a class representative because Lightning was suing her for the remaining balance due under the sales agreement.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in decertifying the class. The COA stated it could find no logical reason to hold that the trial court may never revoke or rescind such an order.

As to Ramsey’s argument that she is a class representative because she is being sued for the amount that includes the document preparation fee, the appeals court was unconvinced.

“In our view, Ramsey’s argument is only speculative,” Judge John Baker wrote. “Ramsey should not be permitted to breach her contract with Lightning by failing to pay the amounts required under the purchase documents, and then when Lightning sues her for non-payment, be conferred the rights and benefits as if she had satisfied her obligations under the contract.”
__________

July 3

Criminal – Law Enforcement/Duty to Stop

Keion Gaddie v. State of Indiana

49A02-1212-CR-953

Finding police lacked reasonable suspicion and probable cause when responding to a call about a disturbance that would justify a seizure of a Marion County man, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Keion Gaddie was subject to an unlawful stop.

Gaddie appealed his Class A misdemeanor conviction of resisting law enforcement that was a result of him refusing to stop walking away from a police officer after the officer ordered Gaddie to stop. The officer was responding to a report of a disturbance at Gaddie’s home and was trying to round everyone up in the front yard to keep an eye on the group. The officer did not see Gaddie or anyone else commit a crime before ordering Gaddie to stop nor was he under arrest.

The state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Gaddie knowingly or intentionally fled from the officer after the officer identified himself and ordered Gaddie to stop. Gaddie claims there’s insufficient evidence because he had no duty to stop in what he considered a consensual encounter.

The Court of Appeals in Corbin v. State, 568 N.E.2d 1064, 1065 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), held that “evidence of flight following a police officer’s order to stop is admissible in a prosecution for resisting law enforcement regardless of the lawfulness of the order.”

“To agree with the rationale in Corbin would effectively render the consensual encounter nonexistent in the state of Indiana,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “Thus, we hold that as long as a seizure has not taken place within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, a person is free to disregard a police officer’s order to stop and cannot be convicted of resisting law enforcement for fleeing.”

The judges rejected the state’s argument that there was reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop. But a report of a disturbance without more is insufficient to create a basis for conducting an investigatory stop, the court ruled. Gaddie was walking beside his home and had not committed any crime. The officer’s explanation that safety was a concern was “merely speculative,” Robb wrote.

Because Gaddie was under no duty to stop when the officer ordered him to do so, the judges reversed his conviction.•

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  1. Bill Satterlee is, indeed, a true jazz aficionado. Part of my legal career was spent as an associate attorney with Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso. Bill was instrumental (no pun intended) in introducing me to jazz music, thereby fostering my love for this genre. We would, occasionally, travel to Chicago on weekends and sit in on some outstanding jazz sessions at Andy's on Hubbard Street. Had it not been for Bill's love of jazz music, I never would have had the good fortune of hearing it played live at Andy's. And, most likely, I might never have begun listening to it as much as I do. Thanks, Bill.

  2. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  3. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  4. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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