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Judge sees shift in 'constitutional jurisprudence' in protected speech cases

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A separate concurring opinion by a Court of Appeals judge describes what he calls "a fundamental shift in Indiana's constitutional jurisprudence."

Judge James S. Kirsch made his statements in the unanimous, 3-0 opinion today in Latoya A. Blackman v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0610-CR-893, which involves a woman convicted of disorderly conduct in 2005 for yelling, swearing, and non-compliant behavior toward police officers during a vehicle narcotics search of the car in which she was riding.

The court ruled that Blackman's arrest for disorderly conduct did not violate the law and that her speech was not considered political speech protected by the constitution.

While concurring, Judge Kirsch noted, "I write separately only to note what I believe is a fundamental shift in Indiana's constitutional jurisprudence."

He voiced disagreement with recent cases following a landmark ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court in Price v. State, 622 N.E. 2d 957 (1993), which held that protections were afforded to similar type speech. Since then, the state's justices in January decided J.D. v. State, 859 N.E.2d 341 (Ind. 2007), which held that speech - albeit political - was not entitled to constitutional protection where it consisted of "persistent loud yelling over and obscuring of [the arresting officer's] attempts to speak and function as a law officer." This was an abuse of free speech, the court wrote.

"Without regard to whether J.D. is the death knell of Price and Indiana's independent constitutional jurisprudence, Blackman's speech here falls within that determined to be abusive by the Court in J.D.," he wrote. "Accordingly, I concur in the majority's decision."
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