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Justices keep pace with past years' activity

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In the final days before its fiscal calendar year ended, the Indiana Supreme Court kept pace with past years’ activity levels.

While the state’s five justices are not obligated to decide cases by any date and they don’t have an official end of term as the U.S. Supreme Court does before a summer recess, the Indiana Supreme Court operates on a fiscal calendar that runs July 1 to June 30 and it’s common for the justices to wrap up long-standing and high-profile matters before that fiscal calendar runs down.

A review of rulings in the past five years shows the justices handed down 24 rulings by the end of June, consistent with the number and types of decisions issued during the past four years – 26, 23, 25, and 29 going back to 2007. That number had been as high as 32 June opinions in 2006.

Regardless of the specific number in June, the month’s flurry of activity follows fewer opinions in May – anywhere from nine to 20 in recent years – and the typical handful in the remaining summer months.

As they typically do, the justices tackled a range of activity – from sex offender registration requirements, record access for private third-parties in litigation, unanimous jury verdicts in child molesting cases, and business transactions being considered leases. Others involved the legality of cheek swabs under the Fourth Amendment and the state of Indiana’s public intoxication law.

One of the trends that has surfaced in the past two years has been the bundling of cases at the end of a fiscal year. In June, the related cases involved attorney fees in adult wrongful death cases and the justices determined those fees and litigation expenses can be recovered under state statute. The main ruling on that issue was Jeffery H. McCabe v. Commissioner, Indiana Dept. of Insurance, No. 49S02-1010-CV-602, and two other cases accompanied it.

This year, the high court in its final week maintained a trend in addressing at least one case where it had to either uphold or strike down a state statute. That came in The Matter of A.B. v. State , No. 71S00-1002-JV-00156, and the justices upheld three state statutes involving juvenile placements by judges and the authority the Department of Child Services has in those decisions.

The statute-constitutionality questions in past years came with the Indiana voter ID statute being upheld in 2010, the Indiana Sex Offender Registry Act being struck down on ex post facto grounds in 2009, and sweeping decisions in previous years on sentencing and annexation cases.

The justices do not take a summer recess and do hold arguments and decide cases in July and August, though those numbers are typically lower than at other times of the year.

A full review of the recent rulings can be found online at Indiana Lawyer’s website.

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