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Indiana Court decisions – Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, 2012

IL Staff
December 19, 2012
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For Publication opinions on Indiana cases released by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Tax Court during this issue’s reporting period are highlighted in this section. To read the complete opinion issued in any of these cases, visit www.theindianalawyer.com and search by case name.

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Dec. 5

Criminal – Theft/Restitution

United States of America v. Gregory Wolfe

11-3281

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a defendant’s argument that the court should go against its precedent that restitution is not a criminal penalty and that a recent U.S. Supreme Court holding means the jury should determine the amount of restitution he should pay for his role in copper theft.

Gregory Wolfe worked as a supervisor at Katoen Natie in Gary. The company packages and stores commodities including copper. Henry Bath LLC began storing its copper at the warehouse in early 2009. Wolfe and his stepfather, Gregory Harris, who was operations manager, began stealing sheets of copper and repackaging them to sell. This work was done before and after regular business hours.

An independent audit discovered the missing copper – approximately $2.9 million worth, totaling 390 metric tons. Harris and Wolfe were fired and charged with bank theft and interstate transportation of stolen goods. Wolfe argued at trial he had no knowledge of the theft scheme and was just following Harris’ orders. The government rebutted this defense with testimony by Wolfe’s sometimes girlfriend Ashby Gurgon.

Wolfe was convicted and sentenced to 88 months imprisonment on each count, to be served consecutively, followed by three-year terms of supervised release. The court also ordered him to pay more than $3 million in restitution.

Wolfe argued that he was deprived of a fair trial because of statements the prosecutor made during closing argument. He also challenged his sentence and the restitution order.

Reviewing under plain error, the 7th Circuit found the prosecutor made improper remarks by credibility vouching for Gurgon, but Wolfe was not prejudiced or denied a fair trial. The prosecutor did misstate trial testimony by saying “all the other witnesses” identified Wolfe on video, but Wolfe was unable to demonstrate that he was prejudiced by that remark.

The judges affirmed the 18-level increase to Wolfe’s sentence because the government was able to show the victim’s loss was at least $2.5 million. He argued that the value of the copper stolen in 2010 was less than that amount and he was unaware of any theft in 2009.

The 7th Circuit also affirmed the restitution order, refusing to find that Southern Union Co. v. United States, U.S. 132 S. Ct. 2344 (2012), requires the Circuit Court to overturn its longstanding jurisprudence that restitution is not a criminal penalty, and second, mandates that all restitution amounts be supported by the jury’s verdict, Judge William Bauer wrote. Southern Union and Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), only come into consideration if the court concludes restitution is a criminal penalty. Bauer noted that the 7th Circuit is in the minority among circuits by not finding restitution is a criminal penalty.

Indiana Court of Appeals

Nov. 28

Civil Plenary – Employment

The Board of Commissioners of Delaware County a/k/a Delaware County Commissioners v. Beverly J. Evans

18A05-1201-PL-14

The Indiana Court of Appeals was split over whether Delaware County commissioners could terminate the contract of the Board of Commissioners’ human resources director after two new members were elected to the board.

Beverly Evans was hired in 2007 and given an employment contract saying she’d serve as H.R. director for three years. But about two years into the employment term, Evans’ contract was terminated after two new commissioners were elected to the board. The board didn’t provide Evans with 15 days written notice of her termination for good cause as required by her employment contract.

She sued in 2011 for breach of contract, and the board of commissioners sought to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim under Trial Rule 12(B)(6). The trial court denied the motion, but a divided appellate court on interlocutory appeal reversed.

Judges Cale Bradford and John Baker agreed with the board’s argument that by binding it to its predecessor members’ choice for H.R. director, Evans’ contract prevents the board’s successor members from implementing the polices desired by the majority of the public who elected them. The majority cited caselaw which said that a county board of commissioners doesn’t have the power to limit the discretionary functions of its successors.

The majority found the language in Evans’ employment contract and job description requires the performance of discretionary functions. “Were it to be held valid, Evans’s contract would inhibit the Board, as newly constituted, from exercising the discretionary powers entrusted to it by the electorate,” Bradford wrote. “Evans’s contract is therefore void as against public policy, and her complaint fails to state an actionable claim.”

But Chief Judge Margret Robb didn’t agree that Evans’ complaint should be dismissed. Her employment contract does appear to grant her a role in certain discretionary functions, but Robb doesn’t think it goes so far as to limit the discretionary functions of the commissioners overseeing her position.

“The major decision-making authority remains with the Commissioners,” she wrote.

Nov. 30

Adoption – Termination/Due Process

In the Matter of the Adoption of Minor Children: C.B.M. and C.R.M.: C.A.B. v. J.D.M. and K.L.M.

37A03-1204-AD-149

A Jasper County mother was denied due process when her children were allowed to be adopted while the birth mother’s appeal of her termination of parental rights was pending, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The court reversed the adoption order and remanded to the Jasper Superior Court a case that also raised issues about the constitutionality of Indiana’s adoption statutes. The case rose to the Court of Appeals previously in 2008, when the court reversed the mother’s termination order.

“We did so without knowledge that the children were adopted while birth mother’s appeal was pending,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “Birth mother also knew nothing of the adoption proceedings.”

The Department of Child Services argued that it was not required to provide the birth mother notice of the adoption proceedings or obtain her consent because her parental rights had been terminated, citing I.C. 31-19-2.5-4(4) and 31-19-9-8(a)(8).

“The state’s consent to the adoption of the children was arbitrary and capricious and in derogation of birth mother’s procedural due process right to a meaningful appeal of the termination order,” Bailey wrote in an opinion joined by Judge John Baker.

“The adoption decree is therefore void. We do not, however, conclude that the statutory scheme for adoption in Indiana is unconstitutional. We therefore reverse the adoption court’s denial of birth mother’s petition to set aside the adoption decree and remand this matter for further proceedings.”

Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred in result in a separate opinion and said the statutes should be read to provide notice to a birth parent who has not exhausted appeals of termination rights.

“While I conclude that the provisions of the adoption statute challenged here are constitutional, I reach this conclusion by reading the statute to excuse notice of adoption proceedings only when a parent’s rights have been terminated as a final matter through exhaustion of all appellate remedies.”

Dec. 3

Criminal – Sex Offender Registry/Ex Post Facto

State of Indiana v. Terry J. Hough

64A05-1203-MI-113

A man convicted of rape in Pennsylvania in 1993 is not required to register as a sex offender in Indiana, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The court applied the Indiana Supreme Court’s 2009 Wallace v. State opinion. The trial court held that because Terry Hough’s conviction predated the establishment of the registries in Pennsylvania and Indiana, requiring him to register would be a violation of ex post facto laws.

Hough was ordered to serve two to five years in prison, and during his incarceration in 1996, Pennsylvania established its registry. On his release, he was told that he didn’t have to register in that state because he was moving to Indiana. He was told he would have to register in Indiana, which he did.

The state argued that Hough should be required to register because under the current sex offender statute he would be required to register for life as an offender. But the court noted a similar recent case, Burton v. State, 45A03-1201-CR-6 (Nov. 8, 2012 Ind. Ct. App. 2012), was decided on similar ex post facto grounds.

“As a resident of Indiana since 1998, Hough is entitled to the protections afforded to him by the Indiana Constitution. Therefore, even though he would be required to register as a sex offender under Pennsylvania’s laws, Indiana’s law controls,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court. “Because he was convicted of a sex offense before Indiana enacted (the registry), requiring Hough to register as a sex offender would violate Indiana’s constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws.”

Left unsettled, though, is an offender’s obligation to register under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which the state has argued applies to offenders regardless of the date of their crime. The same argument was posited in Andrews v. State, 29A02-1112-MI-1166 (Nov. 21, 2012 Ind. Ct. App. 2012).

The court in Hough’s case cited the COA’s opinion in Andrews: “While Andrews may have a federal duty to register under USSORNA if he engages in interstate travel, and could be subject to prosecution in federal district court under 18 U.S.C. § 2250, if he fails to do so, this is not the issue before us.”

Dec. 4

Criminal – Drugs/Resisting Law Enforcement

Jerry Vanzyll v. State of Indiana

34A02-1111-CR-1050

A man who was convicted of multiple methamphetamine felonies had his misdemeanor resisting law enforcement conviction reversed, but the Court of Appeals was not persuaded to overturn his drug convictions.A Howard Superior jury convicted Jerry Vanzyll of Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine and Class D felonies of possession of meth and possession of chemical reagents or precursors with intent to manufacture a controlled substance. He also was convicted of Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison with 12 years executed.

The Court of Appeals ruled that crime scene evidence was sufficient to affirm the drug convictions and that a guard’s testimony about a letter that Vanzyll wrote in jail was admissible. But the appellate panel said the evidence of resisting law enforcement was insufficient to sustain that conviction.

“Vanzyll accurately observes that he ‘had no obligation to comply with officer’s [sic] requests that he answer the door … (citing Hardister v. State, 849 N.E.2d 563 (Ind. 2006),” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court. “And the state concedes that Vanzyll was not required to open the door to the officers when they knocked, but argues that he committed resisting law enforcement when he ran back inside the house.”

“Vanzyll did not leave his residence, and he had no obligation to do so when (police) knocked on the front door. Vanzyll was never given a command to stop,” Mathias wrote. “Although Vanzyll did not immediately comply with (an officer’s) order, he did exit peaceably after a short period of time had elapsed.

“Under these facts and circumstances we conclude that the state’s evidence was not sufficient to prove that Vanzyll fled,” the opinion says. “We therefore reverse his resisting law enforcement conviction and remand this case to the trial court with instructions to vacate its judgment of conviction and sentence on that count.”

Dec. 5

Criminal – Jury Instructions

Mitchell Burton v. State of Indiana

71A03-1203-CR-129

A trial court’s error in refusing to give a defendant’s tendered self-defense and resistance of unlawful force instructions during his trial was not harmless and requires the man’s conviction of Class D felony resisting law enforcement be overturned, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

Police responded to a 911 call of a possible car accident on the morning of Dec. 25, 2010, in South Bend. The officers saw a silver car had pushed up another parked vehicle and was running. Mitchell Burton was inside sleeping and originally not responsive to the officers’ requests to turn off the car and open the door. He apparently had been pushing his car’s accelerator while asleep. Eventually an officer broke a window, and police grabbed Burton and wrestled him to the ground. A DVD recording of the event from an officer’s car shows a struggle between the three officers and Burton, with Burton shouting that he was not resisting.

At least one officer punched him. Burton was handcuffed and taken to the hospital for multiple injuries, including facial fractures. He was charged with battery on the officers and resisting law enforcement, but only convicted of the resisting charge.

Burton claimed the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to give tendered jury instructions that addressed his right to defend himself and/or use force under the circumstances of this case. The trial court refused to give the instructions because the evidence didn’t support giving the instructions.

The Court of Appeals found the DVD provides a strong evidentiary foundation that warrants the giving of the self-defense instruction. Burton also was entitled to the jury instructions on excessive force by police officers because the DVD provides evidence from which a jury could decide that Burton was not an immediate threat to the officers or anyone else, and that he offered no resistance prior to being pulled from the car.

The appellate judges ordered Burton’s conviction vacated.

Miscellaneous – Name Change/Valid ID

In Re the Name Change of John William Resnover and In Re the Name Change of John Arthur Herron

49A02-1205-MI-364

The Court of Appeals concluded that a trial court erred when it required a valid driver’s license or state identification card as a prerequisite to grant a petition for a name change under Indiana Code 34-28-2, but split over whether an elderly man can change his name because he’s never had a valid ID.

John William Resnover and John Arthur Herron, both in their 70s, filed petitions in Marion Circuit Court to change their names to the ones they used after discovering different names on their birth certificates. Resnover’s birth certificate lists his name as John Willie Cheatham; Herron’s lists his name as “Infant Male Payne.” Resnover received an Indiana driver’s license, Social Security Card and pension using the Resnover name, and didn’t discover the name discrepancy until his license expired and he tried renewing it.

Herron never received a driver’s license or ID card, but did obtain a Social Security Card and selective service card identifying him as Herron. His criminal record also lists him as Herron. He did not discover the name discrepancy until he went to apply for Medicaid.

Both men petitioned for name changes, and the Circuit Court denied the requests. Judge Louis Rosenberg reasoned that neither man provided a valid driver’s license or Indiana-issued ID card.

The Court of Appeals looked at I.C. 34-28-2-2 and decided based on the language that all is required is a valid driver’s license or ID number, not an actual card. The statute stipulates the inclusion of the number for a petition for name change. This will allow Resnover the ability to petition for his name change since he has had a valid license in the past and a unique number assigned to him, Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

But Herron’s case is more challenging because he never had a state-issued driver’s license or ID. He asked the court to interpret the “if applicable” phrase in the statute to mean that one has to present a valid license or ID if one is available. The state, as an amicus, opposed this interpretation, claiming it would “gut the statute” and make requirements of subsection 2.5 discretionary.

Judge Terry Crone agreed with the state on this point and believed that Herron should obtain a license or ID using the name on his birth certificate, and then petition to have his named changed to the one he has used his entire life.

But Riley and Judge L. Mark Bailey interpreted the “if applicable” language to indicate that if the required documentation outlined in subsection 2.5 can’t be submitted to the court, the petitioner is relieved from the necessity to produce the documents.

The majority remanded for further proceedings.

Criminal – First Impression/911 Call/Evidence

Trenton Teague v. State of Indiana

89A01-1202-CR-86

Ruling on the issue for the first time in Indiana, the Court of Appeals held a 911 recording that involves statements by a caller that were relayed from a victim are admissible where the victim had personal knowledge of the underlying incident but the caller did not.

Trenton Teague briefly dated Chelsea Saylor; the relationship ended after Teague beat and injured Saylor. About a week after they broke up, Teague entered Saylor’s home in the middle of the night and began beating Saylor’s mother Staci Behnen with a crowbar or tire iron. She recognized the man as Teague. Saylor tried to break up the incident and Teague beat her. He stole the mother’s purse and fled.

Saylor ran next door and had neighbor Jan Bishop call 911. Bishop told the 911 operator statements Saylor made about her ex-boyfriend being the perpetrator and how her mom had been beaten. Behnen’s injuries required her transfer to an Indianapolis hospital trauma center.

After briefly fleeing to Florida, Teague was convicted as charged of Class A felonies burglary and robbery; Class B felonies burglary and aggravated battery; and Class C felony battery. He was sentenced to 38 years on the Class A felony burglary charge and six years with four suspended on the Class B felony aggravated battery count. All other counts were merged into the felony burglary charge.

Teague argued that the 911 recording in which Bishop relayed Saylor’s statements should not have been admitted. The recording involves multiple hearsay, so it must fall within a hearsay exception to be admissible. The judges found Bishop’s statements to the operator qualify as excited utterance and cited other jurisdictions’ rulings in support that the 911 call is admissible.

“Here, Bishop did not have personal knowledge of the underlying incident Saylor described, but she did have personal knowledge of, and was responding to, the startling event or condition that came to her home in the middle of the night in the person of a bloodied Saylor screaming for help,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote. “The 911 call confirms that Bishop was assiduous in relaying the operator’s questions to Saylor and Saylor’s answers in return.

The judges upheld Teague’s sentence, pointing out that the trial court found the crime against Behnen was “significantly more heinous, callous and reprehensible than what is called for by the statute.” The COA pointed out that Teague was ordered by a court not to have any contact with Saylor and he did, he did not pay child support as ordered, and fled the state to avoid prosecution.

Adoption – Mother’s Consent

Adoption of K.S., A Minor Child: A.S. and D.S. v. C.Z.

85A04-1205-AD-243

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision by the Wabash Circuit Court to deny a father and his wife’s petition to allow the wife to adopt his minor child, finding the biological mother’s consent is not required.

K.S.’s father D.S. and stepmother A.S. filed a verified petition for adoption and affidavit and request to terminate mother C.Z.’s parental rights to K.S. The couple requested the trial court waive C.Z.’s consent to the adoption pursuant to I.C. 31-19-9-8. C.Z. had sporadic visitation with K.S. and was in arrears of more than $10,000 in child support to D.S. C.Z. was employed for most of 2010, but was unable to work from November 2010 until September 2011 due to complications from a pregnancy. She then quit her job a month after returning to it in September 2011 to stay at home with her two younger children.

Wabash Circuit Judge Robert R. McCallen III ruled D.S. and A.S. failed to prove that C.Z.’s consent isn’t required.

The judges found that C.Z. willfully failed to pay support for more than one year and ordered the trial court determine whether the adoption is in K.S.’s best interest. The trial court only focused on the statutory requirements to waive C.Z.’s consent to the adoption of K.S. by her stepmother, and the parties did not present any evidence with regard to the impact of the adoption on K.S.’s life.

Dec. 6

Civil Tort – Nuisance

Connie Yates, Rick Yates, Jason Tibbs, and Pauline Tibbs v. Levi Wayne Kemp

50A04-1204-CT-192

A Marshall Circuit judge erred in granting partial summary judgment in favor of a shooting range owner on his neighbors’ claims of nuisance, the Indiana Court of Appeals held. The appellate judges found a statute cited by the trial court did not apply to the owner.

Levi Wayne Kemp built a shooting range on his property in Marshall County before any ordinances, zoning restrictions or laws governing shooting ranges were in effect. He has since expanded several times and received the county board of zoning appeals’ approval in 2008 to continue the operation of the range. His neighbors across the road, Connie and Richard Yates and Jason and Pauline Tibbs, sued Kemp, claiming nuisance, negligence and other claims. They maintained that the shooting range prevents them from riding their horses, scares the horses and they often have to close their windows because of noise from the range.

Marshall Circuit Judge Curtis D. Palmer granted partial summary judgment to Kemp on the nuisance claim, the only issue before the COA. Palmer cited Indiana Code 14-22-31.5-1 et seq. in determining Kemp wasn’t liable for his neighbors’ nuisance claims.

But Senior Judge Betty Barteau pointed out that Section 6, which provides a safe harbor in limited circumstances for owners, operators and users of shooting ranges against claims of noise pollution doesn’t apply to Kemp. That section is only applicable to ranges “if the shooting range complies with a law or an ordinance that applied to the shooting range and its operation at the time of the construction or initial operation of the shooting range, if such a law or ordinance was in existence at the time of the construction or initial operation of the shooting range.”

Kemp isn’t entitled to the protection of Section 6 because there were no applicable laws or ordinances in effect at the time he built and began operating the range, the judges held.

They also found evidence to establish a dispute of material fact as to whether Kemp has caused his neighbors to experience inconvenience, annoyance or discomfort. The matter is remanded for further proceedings.

Dec. 7

Criminal – Battery/Hearsay

Verdyer Clark v. State of Indiana

49A04-1202-CR-66

A Marion County man had his conviction overturned after the Indiana Court of Appeals found a social worker’s statements about his age were hearsay because they were not made specifically for a medical purpose.

Verdyer Clark was convicted of battery as a Class D felony pursuant to I.C. 35-42-2-1(a)(2)(B) which requires the state prove the battery resulted in bodily injury to a person less than 14-years-old and was committed by a person at least 18-years-old.

As evidence of Clark’s age, the state offered two documents prepared by a social worker who interviewed Deanna Drain, the mother of the injured infant. One document, “Preliminary Report of Alleged Child Abuse or Neglect,” listed Clark as “Other Person Responsible for Child(ren)” and showed his age as 23. The other document, “Social Work ED Assessment Plan Final Report,” noted the “Mother has a boyfriend of 9 months Verdyer Clark age 23.”Clark appealed on the grounds the state did not prove its case because the only evidence it offered that he was over 18 at the time of the crime was inadmissible hearsay. The COA agreed and reversed and remanded so the state could decide whether to retry Clark.

The state asserted the social worker’s statements were admissible under Evidence Rule 803(4) which excludes from the hearsay rule statements for the purposes of medical diagnosis and treatment.

However, the COA dismissed that argument, finding it was not apparent that the social worker made the statement about Clark’s age for the purpose of receiving medical diagnosis or treatment.

Citing State v. Velasquez, 944 N.E.2d 34, 40 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011), the court noted that in order for statements to be admissible under Evidence Rule 803(4), they need not be in furtherance of diagnosis and treatment. Rather, the statements must be relied on either to render a diagnosis or provide treatment.

Consequently, the court found the evidence of Clark’s age was not “reasonably pertinent” to the diagnosis or treatment of the infant victim. The information about Clark’s age had no apparent relevance to a diagnosis of the child’s injuries, so the social worker’s statements were not admissible under the Rule 803(4) hearsay exception.

Civil Plenary – Evidence/Criminal History

Terry L. Brown v. Tammy S. Brown

77A01-1204-PL-180

A civil judgment in favor of a woman who claimed her ex-husband battered her and forged her name on a quitclaim deed was vacated by the Court of Appeals. A panel ruled that evidence of the ex-husband’s criminal convictions from the 1980s were prima facie error.

Terry L. Brown had been convicted of rape in 1984 and check deception in 1985. His ex-wife Tammy Brown sued in 2010, alleging he forged her name on a quitclaim deed to a property they owned jointly and alleging he battered her, rupturing a breast implant. Tammy Brown was awarded $80,000 in damages.

Judge Melissa May wrote that Indiana Evidence Rule 609 allows that evidence of convictions more than 10 years old may be admitted only if the court determines that the probative value of the conviction outweighs its prejudicial effect.

The rule “requires evidence of a past conviction only be used ‘[f]or the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness.’ In the instant case, Tammy Brown used the evidence to demonstrate Terry Brown’s bad character and his propensity toward behavior similar to that which she was alleging as a basis for liability,” May wrote in a unanimous decision.

“The evidence was not used for the limited purpose permitted by Evid. R. 609(a), the admission of that evidence was more prejudicial than probative, which violates the exception provided in Evid. R. 609(b),” May wrote. “Accordingly, we reverse and remand.”

Criminal – Drug Possession/Evidence

Phillip T. Billingsley v. State of Indiana

02A05-1204-CR-216

A divided Court of Appeals upheld a man’s possession of marijuana conviction that stemmed from a 911 call. Dissenting Judge James Kirsch doesn’t believe that the providing of a name by a 911 caller removes this case from the category of an anonymous caller, thus the call doesn’t give police enough evidence to stop the car the defendant was in.

Officer Nicholas Lichtsinn responded to a 911 call that Phillip Billingsley was armed at a VFW post in Fort Wayne. The caller, who identified herself as Renita Brown, said Billingsley was the same person who “held her hostage” previously and that he was in a tan or brown Dodge Durango.

Lichtsinn knew the VFW to be a dangerous area, knew Billingsley, knew Billingsley to be a convicted felon, and knew Billingsley had a history of dangerous acquaintances when he responded to the call.

Lichtsinn found Billingsley in the passenger side of a Chevy Trailblazer that matched the color description. He called for backup, drew his gun and ordered Billingsley to put his hands on the roof of the SUV. After other officers arrived, Lichtsinn holstered his gun, patted Billingsley down and found marijuana on the seat where Billingsley sat.

He was charged and convicted of Class D felony possession of marijuana. The trial court denied Billingsley’s motion to suppress.

Judges Edward Najam and Melissa May upheld the conviction, finding the original detainment of Billingsley to be an investigatory stop. Litchtsinn’s use of his firearm was limited and he only had it drawn until backup arrived, Najam wrote.

They also rejected Billingsley’s claim that Brown’s 911 call was akin to an anonymous tip because the state and defense counsel couldn’t locate her.

“Moreover, Brown was not an anonymous caller but a concerned citizen. In her 9-1-1 call, she claimed both to have been a recent victim of Billingsley’s criminal activity and to be witnessing his ongoing criminal activity,” Najam wrote.

Kirsch pointed out in his dissent that nothing known to Lichtsinn, nor provided to the court, allows the court to determine the accuracy of the information provided by the caller. The only information that Brown accurately provided was that Billingsley was in the passenger seat of an SUV in the parking lot of the VFW and the color of that vehicle.

“I also do not believe that the information known to the investigating officer was sufficient to satisfy the standards established by our Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States for investigatory stops,” he wrote.

Dec. 10

Small Claim – Contract

David Vance v. Francisco Lozano, et al.

02A03-1203-SC-142

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a small claims judgment in favor of a concrete company regarding whether the company had to follow through on replacing a driveway for a customer who was unhappy with the work a year later.

David Vance hired Rock Solid Concrete Inc. and Francisco Lozano to do concrete work at his home in the summer of 2009. In December 2010, Vance complained that the driveway had some pitting and scaling. Rock Solid believed its work was not defective and a third-party inspected the driveway. In a non-binding decision, the concrete testing company determined that the damage was due to indirect salt application when snow would melt from cars onto the driveway.

Rock Solid offered to power-wash the driveway and seal it as a one-time customer accommodation, but Vance rejected the offer. In June 2011, the two parties agreed that Rock Solid would try to replace the driveway by the end of August 2011. When no work had begun by that date and the company didn’t respond to Vance’s inquiries, he filed suit in September 2011.

The small claims court found the company made a goodwill gesture that wasn’t an enforceable contract, but the Court of Appeals ruled the parties entered into an enforceable agreement. The agreement settled their dispute as to the cause of the damage to the driveway and the agreement’s purpose was to avoid litigation, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

The settlement of a doubtful claim is sufficient consideration for a compromise if the claim is made fairly and in good faith, even if possibly meritless, she continued. There’s no evidence that Vance hasn’t acted fairly or in good faith.

Criminal – Failure to Report Abuse

Edward Gilliland v. State of Indiana

46A03-1202-CR-97

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of LaPorte Community School Corp.’s athletic director Edward Gilliland’s attempt to dismiss two counts of misdemeanor failure to report child abuse filed against him. The charges stem from the conduct of LaPorte High School’s junior volleyball coach Robert Ashcraft.

After 15-year-old K.T. joined Ashcraft’s team in August 2007, some players’ parents told Gilliland that Ashcraft had given some team members foot rubs, sent texts, and hung out before school with K.T. by himself. Gilliland and head volleyball coach Marybeth Lebo deemed the behavior inappropriate and notes were made in Ashcraft’s file, but the authorities were never alerted.

Ashcraft did commit several sex offenses with K.T., which led to his convictions. In October 2008, Gilliland and Lebo prepared a resignation letter for Ashcraft that did not mention the behavior documented in his file. A month later, police interviewed Gilliland about Ashcraft’s “alleged misconduct” with K.T., but Gilliland said he had no knowledge that the reason Ashcraft resigned was because of that behavior.

An investigation in October 2010 led to two Class B failure to report child abuse or neglect charges filed against Gilliland. He and Lebo sought to dismiss the charges; the Court of Appeals recently left Lebo’s charges in place.

Gilliland argued the prosecution was barred by the two-year statute of limitations, he hadn’t engaged in concealment, and the charging information failed to state facts sufficient to constitute an offense or allow him to prepare a defense.

The trial court affirmed the charges but ordered that any offense committed prior to Oct. 5, 2007, would be outside the statute of limitations because any concealment did not begin until November 2008 when Gilliland spoke to investigators.

“We conclude that Gilliland concealed his offenses from the very beginning, thereby tolling the statute of limitations, and that the State could not have discovered sufficient evidence by exercise of due diligence to charge him prior to October 2010,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the majority. “Thus, we agree with the trial court that the charges were timely filed, but we conclude that any offense committed prior to October 5, 2007, would not be outside the statute of limitations and therefore the State does not have to amend the charging information in that respect.”

Judge L. Mark Bailey agreed with his colleagues that the state alleged facts sufficient to constitute the charged offenses, but agreed with the trial court that the concealment did not occur until the November 2008 interview with police.

“I believe that, if Gilliland lied to officers on November 21, 2008, he committed a positive act, concealing Ashcraft’s crime and thus his own offense of failure to report. However, I disagree with the majority opinion to the extent that it suggests concealment might arise from remaining silent about one’s own crime, without more,” Bailey wrote.•

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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