Justices: Anders withdrawals not allowed

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The Indiana Supreme Court has rejected a procedure set up by the nation's top court more than four decades ago that allows attorneys to withdraw from criminal appeals they deem frivolous. Our justices say it's practically and financially more efficient to simply proceed with an appeal and let that process play out.

Deciding on a case that's moot but presents an issue of great public concern and "significantly implicates appellate practice and procedure, constitutional rights, legal ethics, and judicial resource management," Indiana's justices ruled unanimously today on Bryan G. Mosley v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-0812-CR-643. They affirmed the criminal defendant's misdemeanor conviction for resisting law enforcement and sentence of 363 days of probation, which the Court of Appeals had done last year.

But more significantly, the justices tackled an issue that's divided the nation's state and federal courts and has brought debate in Indiana since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). The ruling established protocol permitting appointed counsel to withdraw from "frivolous" criminal appeals by filing a brief - now dubbed an "Anders brief" - with the appellate court. That procedure requires public defenders to review the record, brief the court on any possible meritorious issues, and give the appeals court a chance to fully examine whether the case has merit and the attorney can withdraw.

In the Mosley case, the Court of Appeals observed that an appeal shouldn't be found in every case and that attorneys can use the Anders brief procedure.

"Trying to create issues where there are none leads to the sort of perfunctory, baseless brief we have before us today," the appellate panel wrote last year. "When there are no meritorious arguments to be made, the better approach is to file a brief in accordance with our decision in Packer v. State, 777 N.E.2d 733 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), which outlines the proper procedure for such a situation."

That was the basis for the Indiana Supreme Court acceptance of the case, which now tosses out the procedure being used here.

"Overall, Anders is cumbersome and inefficient. ... An attorney who withdraws pursuant to Anders must still review the record, complete at least some legal research, consult and advise the client, and draft a brief for submission to the Court of Appeals," Indiana Justice Theodore Boehm wrote. "Requiring counsel to submit an ordinary appellate brief for the first time - no matter how frivolous counsel regards the claims to be - is quicker, simpler, and places fewer demands on the appellate courts."

Turning to rulings from various other jurisdictions out-of-state and on past cases where Indiana justices had commented on the Anders issue, the Indiana high court noted that it also finds fairness issues with the procedure because it flags a case as meritless and creates a more perfunctory review by appellate judges.

"We understand the frustration of the Court of Appeals in receiving underdeveloped briefs and poorly substantiated arguments," the justices wrote. "We also recognize that our decision to prohibit Anders withdrawals may in some cases perpetuate the filing of 'perfunctory' appeals. But in a direct appeal, a convicted defendant is entitled to a review by the judiciary, not by overworked and underpaid public defenders."

The Indiana justices pointed out that the federal justices in 2000 said states could craft their own policies to supplement or offer alternatives to Anders for indigent criminal appeals, and outlined how Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 3.1 includes a comment permitting an attorney to proceed on a defense that might be unjust but not preventing him or her of defending someone charged with a crime. Bryan G. Mosley in this appeal used that conduct rule to make state constitutional claims against the Anders withdrawal, but the Hoosier justices didn't bite and based their opinion here on the court's "supervisory authority over matters of appellate procedure and professional responsibility."


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues