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Indiana Court Decisions Dec. 21, 2012 to Jan. 8, 2013

IL Staff
January 16, 2013
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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Dec. 27

Criminal – Falsifying Passport/Sentencing Guidelines

United States of America v. Fairly W. Earls

11-3347

A Wisconsin man who used a stolen Indiana driver’s license to obtain a passport had his sentence affirmed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held certain provisions in the sentencing guidelines should be applied differently depending on the circumstances.

Fairly W. Earls was found guilty in July 2011 of making a false statement on a passport application, aggravated identity theft and knowingly transferring a stolen identification document. The U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division sentenced him to 36 months on counts one and three with a consecutive sentence of 24 months on count two.

Earls appealed his sentence, in part, on the grounds that the District Court erroneously calculated his sentencing guideline range. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  

Based on Earls’ three-count conviction, the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) recommended that his total offense level be set at 15. The report concluded that because Earls had used a passport in the commission of a felony, namely bail jumping, the court should apply 2L2.2(c)(1)(A), which calls for the application of 2X1.1 (Attempt, Solicitation or Conspiracy).

In turn, 2X1.1 of the sentencing guidelines then directs the court to apply the base level from the guidelines for the substantive offense and add any adjustments for intended conduct that can be established with reasonable certainty. The District Court concluded that Earls’ offense of using his passport to jump bail most closely correlated to Sentencing Guidelines 2J1.6 (Failure to Appear by Defendant). When applied, 2J1.6 brought the offense level to 15.

Earls argued that the cross-reference was done in error because of the language in Application Note 2 of 2X1.1, which defines “substantive offense” to mean that the defendant was convicted of soliciting, attempting or conspiring to commit. He contended the District Court erred when it applied 2X1.1 because at the time he was sentenced, he had not been convicted for failure to appear in Wisconsin state court.

The 7th Circuit ruled the commentary in Application Note 2 does not apply when 2X1.1 is reached by cross-reference from 2L2.2(c)(1)(A) because it is rare that a defendant will have already been convicted of “soliciting, attempt, or conspiring to commit” an underlying offense at the time of sentencing. The court concluded that Application Note 2 was “logically intended” to be applied when 2X1.1 is applied directly, not when it is reached through cross-reference from 2L2.2(c)(1)(A).

NLRB Petitions – Union Labor Practice Charge

Douglas Richards, et al. v. National Labor Relations Board and United Steel, et al.

12-1973, 12-1984

The cost of a postage stamp was not enough for Beck objectors to request a refund from their unions, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.  

The 7th Circuit dismissed the petitions for review on the grounds that the petitioners did not suffer any injury because of the National Labor Relations Board’s actions and, therefore they lacked standing to bring the appeal.

The case originated with Douglas Richards, an Indiana resident who worked at Cequent Towing Products in Goshen. He filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Steel Workers, arguing that the union created an undue burden by requiring employees to annually file Beck objections which excused them from having to pay the fees unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration or grievance adjustment.

Other union members, Ronald R. Echegaray and David Yost, from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, respectively, joined the suit. Through the NLRB general counsel, the petitioners urged an end to the annual renewal policies and asked for refunds for all employees who had once objected in the past but failed to renew.

In August 2011, the NLRB ruled that the annual renewal policies violated the unions’ duty of fair representations and ordered the annual renewal policies no longer be enforced. It did not, however, address the request for refunds.

The petitioners filed motions for reconsideration. In April 2012, the board denied the motions, ruling that retroactive refunds were inappropriate because the unions had not necessarily been on notice that their annual renewal policies were unlawful.

The charging parties then filed petitions for review with the 7th Circuit.

The court found the petitioners did not suffer any injury-in-fact from the NLRB decisions. They either renewed their objections each year or were not required to renew. When the board ordered the unions to no longer enforce their annual renewal policies, that burden was lifted and the threat was removed.

The petitioners argued that Echegaray and Yost were “aggrieved” because the NLRB failed to order reimbursement for the postage costs that they incurred when they annually mailed their objections.

However, the 7th Circuit maintained it could not rule whether the board abused its discretion in denying relief because the petitioners never made any meaningful request for postage reimbursement. Consequently, the NLRB never had an opportunity to consider a request for that relief.
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Jan. 8

Civil – Insurance/Construction

West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Arbor Homes LLC

12-2274

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals praised a homebuilder for its quick response and remedy to a couple’s discovery that their brand new home was full of backed-up sewage. But because Arbor Homes didn’t get the consent of the insurer regarding a settlement, the insurer has no obligation to pay for the cleanup.

Kurt and Joy Lorch purchased a home from Arbor in 2007, but shortly after moving in, they became ill. A smell in the home was caused by raw sewage being discharged into the home’s crawl space. A&M Plumbing, hired by Willmez Plumbing to perform work on the Arbor homes, failed to connect the home’s plumbing to the main sewer line.

As part of Willmez’s contract with Arbor, it agreed to take out insurance and Arbor was named as an additional insured. Subcontractors hired by Willmez were bound to the same terms as Willmez.

Arbor acted quickly and cleaned up the home, but it eventually acquiesced to the Lorches’ request that the company purchase their home and build the couple a new one. Arbor told Willmez to place its insurer West Bend Insurance Co. on notice of the Lorches’ claims, but West Bend was not informed of the proposed settlement or eventual execution until it was completed. Arbor completed the settlement on the belief that the insurer’s silence meant it had no objections.

Arbor sued Willmez, and insurer West Bend sought a declaration it had no duty to defend or indemnify Arbor, denying coverage under various theories, including that Arbor wasn’t an additional insured. It later conceded that Arbor should have been treated as such.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of West Bend, finding the insurer was relieved of any duty under the fungi and bacteria exclusion as well as the voluntary payments provision. The 7th Circuit focused on the voluntary payments provision of the contract, which says that the insured must tell West Bend as soon as practicable of any occurrence and of any claims or lawsuits and that an insured cannot voluntarily make a payment without West Bend’s consent.

“There is no evidence that West Bend ‘consented’ to any settlement as required by the voluntary payments provision,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote. “Although Arbor behaved admirably in expeditiously resolving the matter for the homeowners, it failed to protect its own interests when it relied on Willmez to notify West Bend about the incident, and failed to obtain West Bend’s consent for any settlement. Having no opportunity to participate in the investigation or settlement, West Bend is entitled to enforcement of the plain language of the contract: Arbor’s settlements with Willmez and with the Lorches without the consent of West Bend is at Arbor’s own expense.”

Indiana Court of Appeals

Dec. 21

Criminal – Fair Trial/Testimony

Steven E. Malloch v. State of Indiana

17A03-1201-CR-37

The Indiana Court of Appeals acknowledged that although a defendant did not receive a perfect trial, it is confident that Steven Malloch received a fair trial on a charge of Class A felony child molesting relating to his stepdaughter.

Malloch was accused of fondling C.P.’s breast and inserting a finger in her vagina in 2003 and 2004, which he claimed happened when he was sleeping and sharing a bed with the girl. The molestation allegations did not come to light until nearly five years later. Malloch was questioned by DeKalb County Sheriff’s detective Donald Lauer. The two interviews were videotaped. During the second interview, Malloch admitted to touching the girl’s vagina while he was awake and wrote an apology letter to C.P.

Malloch was originally charged with two counts of child molesting, but one was dismissed for statute of limitations. After a mistrial at his first trial, Malloch was convicted of the Class A felony in September 2011.

Malloch raised five issues on appeal, including whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a continuance made three days before his second trial;  whether the court erred by admitting Malloch’s statements in the recorded interviews, in which he ultimately confessed; and whether the state committed prosecutorial misconduct amounting to fundamental error.

After his mistrial, Malloch wanted to call a doctor as a sleep expert who had treated Malloch, but the doctor would not be able to testify at the trial. The trial court denied the continuance. The record here is devoid of any indication that the doctor ever intended to appear and Malloch made no record as to when the doctor would be able to testify.

The judges found no abuse of discretion in admitting Malloch’s statements. He never unambiguously and unequivocally invocated the right to counsel and his statements in both interviews were voluntary.

The appellate court found the state did not predispose the jury against him and that the state’s improper impeachment of Malloch’s wife and C.P.’s mother did not place Malloch in grave peril.

“We have concluded, however, that at most, only two isolated, brief remarks during closing argument constituted prosecutorial misconduct. These instances must be viewed in light of the evidence at trial, which included C.P.’s testimony and Malloch’s confession. The jury was able to view the interactions between Malloch and Detective Lauer during both interviews and could thus evaluate the voluntariness of Malloch’s confession against his claim of coercion and sexsomnia. Although Malloch did not receive a perfect trial, we are confident that he received a fair trial,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote.

Criminal – First Impression/Risk of Bodily Injury

Kenneth S. Tipton v. State of Indiana

47A01-1201-CR-4

Someone shooting at a residence, for purposes of a criminal recklessness prosecution, may create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person even if the resident is away from the home at the moment of the shooting, the Indiana Court of Appeals held in a first impression case.

Kenneth Tipton shot at police who arrived at his home to arrest him on suspicion of domestic battery. Some of the shots hit the house of Adam Mullis and his wife, who were not home at the time. Tipton was convicted of Class C felony criminal recklessness, dealing in marijuana and being a habitual offender.  

Tipton challenged his criminal recklessness conviction, arguing that the state didn’t prove the element “substantial risk of bodily injury to another person” because the Mullises weren’t home when the shots were fired.

The judges found Tipton’s acts did create a substantial risk of bodily injury to the couple. Tipton claimed that the house was not an “inhabited dwelling” as the statute requires since the Mullises weren’t home. The appellate court pointed out that it’s never addressed whether a dwelling remains “inhabited” when the people who live there are temporarily away from the home, but it cited decisions from other jurisdictions that are instructive.

“We adopt the reasoning of those courts that have held the fact the occupants of a house were not physically present does not lessen the risk of danger to others or the recklessness of his behavior and that shooting at a structure currently used as a dwelling poses a great risk or ‘high probability’ of death. We accordingly hold a residence may be ‘inhabited’ for criminal recklessness purposes if someone is likely to be inside,” Judge Melissa May wrote.
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Dec. 26

Civil Plenary – Doctrine of Laches/BMV

Leslee Orndorff v. Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, R. Scott Waddell, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

53A04-1206-PL-299

In overturning a lower court’s ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals opened the door for the doctrine of laches to be applied to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles by finding the suspension of a Bloomington woman’s driving privileges conflicts with the public’s interest in reducing poverty.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of a request for a preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings.

From 2002 to 2004, Leslee Orndorff received 17 driving convictions and had her driving privileges suspended 18 times. In 2008, she moved with her two children to Bloomington, obtained a valid driver’s license and got a job as a personal care attendant.

Four years later, the BMV discovered Orndorff qualified as a habitual traffic violator and sent her a notice that her driving privileges would be suspended for 10 years, effective May 29, 2012.

Orndorff filed a complaint against the BMV alleging that the equitable doctrine of laches prevented the state agency from suspending her driving privileges and requesting a preliminary injunction to stop the suspension. The trial court denied her request for a preliminary injunction, concluding, in part, that it was unlikely that laches would apply to the government.

For Orndorff to assert laches against a government entity, she had an additional requirement to show that the government was not acting in its sovereign capacity to protect the public welfare.

The trial court noted that Orndorff will suffer adverse effects if her driving privileges are suspended and that those adverse effects, namely that she will lose her job and her family will be thrust into poverty, threaten the public interest. However, it ruled that the adverse effect that will be suffered by Orndorff’s family does not appear to constitute the sort of public threat that should prevent the BMV from suspending her driving privileges.

The COA disagreed, finding that the public has a real and tangible interest in reducing poverty and that since 2008, Orndorff has not incurred any driving convictions.

Writing for the court, Judge Terry Crone concluded, “Based on the particular circumstances of this case, we have concluded that suspending Orndorff’s driving privileges presents a threat to the public interest and that no public interest will be served by suspending her driving privileges.”

Domestic Relation – Divorce Order/Recalculation

Lisa A. Birkhimer v. Neil S. Birkhimer

29A02-1111-DR-1058

A divorce order that satisfied neither party was sent back to the trial court for recalculation of several provisions.

“Discovery in this case was complex and contentious,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals that issued a 31-page opinion. Lisa Birkhimer had business interests whose values were estimated in divorce proceedings at $2.78 million by her appraisers and $3.55 million by her husband’s evaluations.

The court awarded the business assets to Lisa Birkhimer and gave her 67 percent of the marital estate. To effect the division, she was ordered to pay more than $870,000 in equal monthly payments over 10 years with interest, plus a portion of her ex-husband’s legal fees. Neil Birkhimer also was to receive child support payments for their two children for whom the couple shared custody.

The COA remanded the case and ordered the Hamilton Superior Court to:

• Include Lisa Birkhimer’s $580,000 debt to her father in setting forth the marital assets, and either recalculate the 33/67 percent split or adjust the percentages if the court determines that a different division is just and reasonable;

• Recalculate Lisa Birkhimer’s income for child support purposes. If a deduction is made for her taxes, the deduction should not exceed 100 percent of her taxes. The court shall enter written findings to support any deviations from the Child Support Guidelines;

• Complete a new child support obligation worksheet using Lisa Birkhimer’s recalculated income and applying the parenting time credit to Neil Birkhimer; and

• Correct or clarify attorney fees awarded to Neil Birkhimer as directed.
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Dec. 27

Civil Plenary – Insurance/Personal Injury Claim

Slavojka Pistalo v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and The Estate of Iris M. Wilks, Deceased

45A04-1204-PL-214

A driver’s claim against an insurance company that was dismissed by a trial court was reinstated by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Slavojka Pistalo was injured in a 2003 vehicle collision and filed suit against motorist Iris Wilks, who died in the same year. Pistalo learned of her death while in negotiations with Wilks’ insurer, and Pistalo’s attorney opened an estate in Wilks’ name to pursue the personal injury claim.

Pistalo offered to settle for the $100,000 policy limit, but insurer Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. refused. A jury later found Wilks 100 percent at fault and awarded Pistalo $309,000 from Wilks’ estate. The insurer paid the policy limit, and Pistalo filed further proceedings to recover $325,000 – the remaining award plus fees and prejudgment interest. A Lake Superior Court – one of three that has been involved in the litigation – granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer.

The appeals court reversed and remanded.

“By refusing to settle, Progressive placed its insured at risk of incurring a judgment for an amount exceeding the policy limits,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court. “If bad faith is established, Progressive’s obligation to Pistalo will include not only the stated policy limits, but also the amount of the excess judgment.

“Because the issue of whether Progressive acted in bad faith has not been established in the designated materials as a matter of law, we conclude that summary judgment was inappropriate. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this decision.”

Civil Tort – Railroad Warnings/Fatal Accident

Indiana Rail Road Company v. John Blaine Davidson, Admin. of the Estate of Carolyn Davidson, Deceased, and Tonya Kincaid, as Mother and Next Friend of Cierra Kincaid, a Minor

84A01-1202-CT-81

The trial court did not err in concluding that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether federal preemption applies with respect to the adequacy of the traffic warning devices installed at a railroad crossing where a fatal accident occurred in 2009, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.

The court upheld Vigo Superior Judge David Bolk’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the train crash victims.

Indiana Rail Road Co. appealed the trial court’s finding that an issue of material fact existed as to whether federal preemption applied.

The predecessor to Indiana Rail Road in 1978 received federal grant money to install crossbuck signs at the crossing. In 2009, prior to the crash, those crossbucks were removed and a new crossing sign was installed in a project that used state, but no federal money. The new crossbucks were placed at a different location.

“In its application requesting state funds, the Indiana Rail Road neither included nor incorporated the federal specifications from the 1978 project. Because state funds were requested and granted, the Indiana Rail Road became responsible for assessing the crossing’s safety needs,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the court. “There is no evidence indicating that the federal government approved the newly located crossbucks.”

“We hold that the trial court properly denied the Indiana Rail Road’s motion for partial summary judgment, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether federal preemption precludes Appellees’ claim with respect to the adequacy of traffic warning devices,” Riley wrote.
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Dec. 28

Miscellaneous – Automobile Ownership/eBay Purchase

James M. Brinkley and Stephanie L. Brinkley v. Michael Haluska, P.E., d/b/a Retro Tech, et al.

32A01-1204-MI-181

Although a 1965 Chevrolet Corvette was the subject of litigation over ownership when it was purchased by a third party on eBay, the Indiana Court of Appeals has found the hotrod belongs to the eBay bidder.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment granted to Donald Gindelberger. It found Gindelberger to be a good faith purchaser for value.

The Brinkleys bought the Corvette in 2005 and, in 2006, contracted with Michael Haluska to restore the car for $12,500 plus parts and additional expenses. However, the parties eventually had disagreement about Haluska’s work and the amount of money the Brinkleys still owed.

Mechanic’s Lien Plus, hired by Haluska, filed a lien on the vehicle and sent a certified notice to James Brinkley at his father’s residence which was the address listed on the title. The notice stated the vehicle would be sold at public auction in August 2009 if the charges of $7,400 were not paid.

Brinkley did not receive the notice of the sale.

At the August auction, Haluska purchased the vehicle for $100.

Then Mechanic’s Lien sent a second certified notice to Brinkley at his own address, informing him the car would be sold at public auction in November 2009 if he did not pay the charges.

On Nov. 20, 2009, the Brinkleys filed a complaint for injunctive relief against Haluska to bar the sale of the vehicle and to regain possession. That same day, Haluska filed an application for certificate of title with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and on Nov. 23, 2009, he was issued the certificate of title.

Haluska was served with the Brinkleys’ complaint on Dec. 3, 2009, but he subsequently listed the car for sale on eBay. Gindelberger purchased the vehicle for $25,100 and received the certificate of title showing Haluska as the owner. Gindelberger did not examine the county court records prior to purchasing the vehicle.

After the trial court granted an injunction, ordering Haluska not to transfer title or deliver the signed title to the vehicle to any third party, the Brinkleys filed an amended complaint. They alleged Gindelberger was “not a bona fide purchaser for value without notice” because he had constructive notice of their lawsuit against Haluska.

The COA rejected that argument. It found there is no lis pendens notice for automobiles and there is no authority requiring Gindelberger to search pending litigation records prior to purchasing a vehicle.

Domestic Relation – Child Support/Foreign Documents

Joel Zivot v. Pamela London

49A02-1207-DR-613

A Marion Superior judge had no jurisdiction to enter a judgment against a father stating he owed $27,522 in support to his children’s mother, because Canadian court documents and other filings should not have been considered, the Court of Appeals ruled.

A couple married in Toronto in 1992 and divorced in 2006, and the mother and children moved to Indiana in 2011. The father, who now lives in Georgia, unilaterally began paying substantially less child support, pursuant to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

Pamela London sued, filing as evidence a certificate of divorce, separation agreement and handwritten minutes of settlement, and later claiming her ex-husband was in contempt. Marion Superior Judge Thomas Carroll in May entered an order and judgment on London’s verified petition for contempt. Joel Zivot was ordered to pay his ex-wife’s legal fees and 75 percent of the cost of his children’s college education, in addition to the $27,522 judgment.

But Judge Edward Najam wrote that the court should not have acted in any manner with the documents presented as evidence. In reversing the lower court, he wrote for the panel, “We agree (with Zivot) that the trial court did not have before it a foreign support order subject to enforcement, nor could the trial court enforce child support based on written agreements between the parties where there is no evidence that such agreements had been approved by a court or incorporated into a court order.”

Najam wrote that the divorce certificate “was not signed by a judge, magistrate, or other official with authority to preside over dissolution proceedings. Rather, it was signed only by the clerk of the court in Ontario and is dated eleven months after the parties’ marriage was dissolved and ten months after the dissolution of marriage became effective. From the face of the document, we cannot conclude that the Certificate of Divorce is a judgment, decree, or order of a court. Thus, the trial court erred when it registered the Certificate of Divorce as an order from another state.

“The trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter an order enforcing Father’s child support obligations. The trial court did not have before it a child support order from another state, a prerequisite to enforcing a foreign support order … Thus, the trial court erred when it entered the Order enforcing Father’s child support obligations and ordering Father to pay attorney’s fees as a result,” Najam wrote.

Executive Administration – Utility

Duke Energy Indiana, Inc. v. Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission

93A02-1111-EX-1042

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s reversal and subsequent rejection of deferred accounting of $11.9 million for Duke Energy was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a case revisited because of an ethics scandal involving state regulators.

Duke appealed an IURC ruling against its request for deferred accounting related to expenses incurred in a 2009 ice storm. The IURC previously had found in Duke’s favor, and the utility sued claiming that the decision against it was arbitrary and capricious.

Even though the IURC provided no reasons for denying Duke’s second request, the COA ruled that it didn’t have to.

“We find that there were changes in the evidence from the first hearing to the second hearing that justified the IURC’s decision to deny Duke relief the second time around, and, in any event, the IURC was not required to explain why it reached a different conclusion,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court. “We therefore affirm the IURC’s decision to deny Duke’s request to utilize deferred-accounting treatment for over $11 million in storm-operating expenses.”

The IURC’s decision against Duke came after it was discovered that former IURC chairman David Lott Hardy was aware that administrative law judge Scott Storms was talking to the utility about a position at Duke while he was presiding over their cases.

Storms was hired by Duke and subsequently fired, and a state ethics panel fined him $10,000 and forbid him from holding future state employment. Hardy was fired and charged with three Class D felony counts of official misconduct.

“Duke is unable to cite to any authority requiring the IURC to fully explain why it changed its mind following a new hearing on the issues at which updated evidence was presented,” Vaidik wrote, noting that the IURC did make required findings in the second case.

“What happened here is analogous to what sometimes happens in civil cases across this state. That is, it is similar to a trial court denying a party’s summary-judgment motion without explanation early in a case but then granting that very same summary-judgment motion, on the same evidence, one week before trial without explanation. In both instances, the evidence is essentially the same, and the ‘judge’ is not required to give an explanation as to why he changed his mind between one decision and another,” Vaidik wrote.

“Although the better practice would have been for the IURC to clearly articulate why it reached different conclusions, we find that the updated evidence presented at the second hearing justified the IURC’s decision to deny Duke relief in its October 2011 order, and, in any event, the IURC was not required to explain why it reached an opposite conclusion in its October 2011 order.”
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Dec. 31

Miscellaneous – PERF/Pre-Existing Condition

Indiana Public Employee Retirement Fund v. Paul Bryson

49A04-1201-MI-2

Although an employee had a pre-existing condition, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled his on-duty injury qualified him for Class 1 impairment disability benefits from the Indiana Public Employee Retirement Fund.

PERF petitioned the COA for a rehearing of its Oct. 9 opinion in Ind. Pub. Emp. Ret. Fund v. Bryson, 977 N.E.2d 374, 379 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). In that opinion, the court affirmed the trial court’s order that Paul Bryson was entitled to Class 1 benefits because he had a “covered impairment” that was the direct result of an injury that occurred while he was on duty.

The Court of Appeals affirmed its original opinion. Judge Cale Bradford dissented.

At the rehearing, PERF contended no medial evidence supports the finding that Bryson’s on-duty injuries created an impairment. As it argued on its direct appeal, the retirement fund took the position that Bryson is impaired because of a pre-existing condition – degenerative disc disease – rather than because of any on-duty injuries.

The COA declined to reexamine the issue since it had previously found that any fund member who gets injured on the job will have an impairment that is the direct result of the physical injury or injuries even if that member had a pre-existing condition or health issue.

PERF also raised the new argument that Bryson’s on-duty injuries did not prevent him from doing his job. Rather, he was considered disabled as a preventative measure because of his pre-existing condition.

The COA dismissed that argument, asserting that it had already found Bryson to have a “covered impairment.”

Criminal – Reasonable Suspicion/Traffic Stop

Damon Ray Bowers v. State of Indiana

55A04-1204-CR-180

Police had the “reasonable suspicion” required to stop a possible impaired driver, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled, even though the driver’s companion did not specifically tell the officers the driver was intoxicated.

Damon Ray Bowers brought an interlocutory appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress evidence gathered from a traffic stop. The COA found the trial court did not err when it denied his motion to suppress, ruling the brief traffic stop was justified by the police having reasonable suspicion that Bowers was intoxicated.

Accordingly, it remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

In the early morning of Oct. 9, 2011, Mooresville police approached April Bowers, the defendant’s ex-wife, after they saw her exit Damon Bowers’ van. She was intoxicated and told the officers she and Damon Bowers had been drinking.

Police pulled over Damon Bowers after he briefly returned to the scene and then left. He appeared intoxicated, admitted to drinking alcohol, and failed three field sobriety tests.

The state charged Damon Bowers with Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated and Class D felony operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.15 or more.

Damon Bowers filed a motion to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop, arguing the stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion and violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, he argued the police did not have the reasonable suspicion required to stop his vehicle because April Bowers said he was “drinking” and not “intoxicated.” The COA disagreed.  

Citing Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356,359 (Ind. 2005), the COA pointed out that to determine reasonableness, it has to consider (1) the degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a violation has occurred, (2) the degree of intrusion the method of the search or seizure imposes on the citizen’s ordinary activities, and (3) the extent of law enforcement’s needs.

The COA found police had “reasonable suspicion” that Damon Bowers was intoxicated based on what they observed and what April Bowers told them. It addition, it deemed the stop of Bowers’ vehicle to be a “minimal intrusion.” Finally, it pointed out that police needed to prevent Damon Bowers from driving further if he was intoxicated so he would not endanger himself or others.

Domestic Relation – Emancipation/College Expenses

Lisa Svenstrup v. Thomas Svenstrup

29A02-1206-DR-452

A statutory change in the age of emancipation for child support, except for educational support, does not preclude courts from modifying educational support obligations when parents demonstrate changes in their financial circumstances, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

An appellate panel affirmed a Hamilton Superior ruling denying a mother’s petition for allocation of college expenses.

Thomas Svenstrup was granted a modification in weekly child support obligations after the couple’s son began attending Indiana University in 2011. Lisa Sventstrup later filed a petition for allocation of college expenses that the court denied.

While the son’s grants, college aid and student loans more than covered the cost of education, the mother’s brief claimed that there is no caselaw allowing her to modify a denial of post-secondary education expenses and allowing her to modify a denial after the child would be emancipated, leaving her no recourse if a change in circumstances occurred.

“In this regard we note that Ind. Code § 31-16-6-6(a) was amended effective July 1, 2012” to set the emancipation at 19 except for educational support.

“Under these circumstances, where Mother petitioned for an educational support order PRIOR to (the son’s) emancipation at age nineteen but which petition was denied by the trial court’s order, we hold that the order is subject to modification,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court.

“We affirm the trial court’s order denying Mother’s petition for allocation of college expenses, which order may be modified upon the requisite showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the existing order unreasonable.”

Criminal – Evidence/License Suspension

Israel Cruz v. State of Indiana

49A02-1204-CR-301

A driver whose conduct was “clearly blameworthy” had his conviction overturned after the Indiana Court of Appeals found the state’s evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver knew his license was suspended.

Israel Cruz was charged with operating a vehicle while suspended as a habitual traffic violator after he was pulled over for speeding while the HTV suspension was in effect. At a bench trial, Cruz admitted he knew he was not supposed to drive because he did not have an Indiana driver’s license; however, he denied having any knowledge of the HTV suspension.

The trial court ruled the state met its burden because the defendant did not rebut the presumption that he knew his license was suspended. Cruz was convicted of a Class A misdemeanor and sentenced to 365 days, all suspended to probation except for time served.

The COA reversed Cruz’s conviction because the evidence was not sufficient to show Cruz knew he was suspended.

Cruz asserts this case raises an issue of first impression regarding the meaning of “last address shown” in I.C. 9-30-10-16(b) when the driver has never held a license.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles sent notice of an HTV suspension to Cruz in 2011 to 3518 Steer St., Indianapolis. Cruz testified he did not live at that address so he never received the notice, and the BMV could not to explain why it used that location.

The court records submitted into evidence show three different addresses for Cruz, but none list the 3518 Steer St. residence. A BMV employee surmised the state agency probably obtained the address from the documentation generated from Cruz’s first traffic violation in 2004.

However, the COA ruled the employee was “simply guessing” and that the other addresses in the HTV packet were all more recent than 2004. The court noted although there is ample evidence that Cruz knew he had never received a license and that he was not supposed to drive, driving without having received a license is a separate offense than driving while suspended. Yet, the state chose not to charge him with driving without having received a license.

“In conclusion, though Cruz’s conduct is clearly blameworthy, the evidence presented by the State was not sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew that he was suspended,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court.
__________

Jan. 4

Criminal – Battery/Dismissal

State of Indiana v. Daniel E. Riley

78A05-1206-CR-311

The Indiana Court of Appeals found a Switzerland Circuit Court had no grounds to dismiss the information against a man charged with misdemeanor battery after jabbing the shoulder of a pit boss at Belterra Casino.

Daniel Riley went to the casino in December 2011 to play blackjack at a specific seat. When he saw that seat was reserved, he got angry with pit boss Peggy Warfield after she refused to let him play, poking her in the shoulder. Security called Indiana Gaming Agent Audrey Smoot to take a complaint that Riley wanted to file. He then decided not to file charges, but Warfield wanted to press charges, so Smoot watched surveillance video of the incident.

She decided battery charges should be filed and Riley should be ejected. Because Riley was too intoxicated to leave and had a hotel room, she let him stay to sober up. When the state charged Riley with battery, Smoot was the affiant for the information, which was signed by the prosecutor. Riley sought to dismiss the charges, which Switzerland Circuit Judge W. Gregory Coy granted without prejudice.

“While there may be several possible grounds for dismissal of an information, we can find no support for the proposition that Smoot acting as affiant would be one of them. Nor has any other basis been alleged,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “While it may be more common to have a law enforcement officer or prosecutor affirm the information, it is not required by the plain language of the statute, nor by any case law that we can find or that the parties cite.”

As such, the trial court abused its discretion in granting the dismissal.•
 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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