Courts

School, student settle pledge suit

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Within a week of filing a federal lawsuit, a settlement has been reached on a case involving a high school student who was punished for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance.The Franklin Community School Corp. superintendent said the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has agreed to drop the lawsuit. The school district will pay the student's $1,000 in attorney fees, clear his school record, and not require participation by standing or any other way during the Pledge of Allegiance...
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Court rules on 2 water-related cases

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The Indiana Court of Appeals decided two environmental cases today involving issues pertaining to lake levels and the rights lakefront property owners enjoy.In Center Townhouse Corp., et al. v. City of Mishawaka, No. 71A04-0612-CV-707, the court tackled an issue it hasn't specifically dealt with before and decided not to expand Indiana's riparian rights, or those privileges extended to waterfront property owners, to include the right of unobstructed view of the water.A group of eight townhome owners brought an inverse condemnation action against...
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SCOTUS set to start term

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Next week will be a big one for Indiana in the Supreme Court of the United States.The nation's highest court will hear six arguments next week, including a much-anticipated and publicized case involving Indiana's voter identification law, and another state's case that has Hoosier interest on the constitutionality of lethal injections.On Tuesday, the justices will take on a pair of Indiana cases. The combined cases are Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, No. 07-21, and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, No....
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Appeal moot, but attorney fees allowed

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal as moot but awarded the defendant appellate attorney fees and costs because the plaintiff engaged in procedural and substantive bad faith during the appeals process. In Samuel Lesjak v. New England Financial, No. 29A02-0706-CV-499, Lesjak appealed the trial court's order that he arbitrate a claim filed against him by New England Financial in a forum other than the National Association of Securities Dealers. Lesjak worked for New England Securities as a broker/dealer. He registered...
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Chief public defender delays departure

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Expect to see David E. Cook's face at the Marion County Public Defender Agency a little longer than anticipated.The chief public defender is delaying for a month his departure - originally planned for Feb. 15 - to help make sure the agency has adequate leadership while its board of directors searches for a successor. Cook is stepping down after 12 years as the county's top public defender to work for immigration firm Gresk & Singleton in Indianapolis.Because the agency needed leadership...
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COA: Offender residency law not OK

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The Indiana Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court's ruling that the state's law prohibiting violent and child sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or public area where children congregate is unconstitutional.The ruling came in State of Indiana v. Anthony W. Pollard, No. 05A02-0707-CR-640. Judges heard arguments in the case March 31. The state argued that Indiana Code Section 35-42-4-11 was not considered ex post facto law as applied to Pollard, but the appeals court disagreed and...
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Restitution continues beyond probation period

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed today that trial courts must inquire about a defendant's ability to pay when they order restitution as a condition of probation or a suspended sentence and a restitution obligation continues beyond the end of a probationary period. However, in Jeffrey Pearson v. State of Indiana, No. 45S03-0712-CR-574, the high court affirmed the trial court's order for Pearson to pay at least $150 a month in restitution as a condition of his probation even though the trial court...
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Professor entitled to unemployment benefits

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
University professors who do not have their fixed-termed contracts renewed after the contract expires are entitled to unemployment benefits because their resulting unemployment isn't voluntary, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court Tuesday. In Indiana State University v. William C. LaFief, et al., No. 93S02-0801-EX-17, William LaFief was hired by Indiana State University as an assistant professor for one academic year and was reappointed for the following year. After his second academic year at the university, LaFief was told by the school he would...
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Court allows relief under Crime Victims Statute

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
Contract provisions that exempt a party from liability under the Indiana Crime Victims Statute are void when the party violates public policy, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday. In The State Group Industrial (USA) Unlimited v. Murphy & Associates Industrial Services, No. 82A04-0703-CV-158, State Group appealed the trial court judgment denying the company's request for relief under Indiana Code 34-24-3-1, the Crime Victims Statute. The trial court awarded State Group actual damages, but denied relief under the statute based on a...
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Lawmakers pick summer study topics

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
State lawmakers have announced what topics they'll explore before the 2009 legislative term begins.On tap: immigration, administrative law judge powers, Indiana's alcoholic beverage laws, and a variety of other legal issues.The Indiana Legislative Council Thursday created multiple new interim study commissions that will meet this summer. What they recommend helps set the stage for the next session. Legislative leaders will appoint lawmakers to the panels in coming weeks, and most must make recommendations to the General Assembly by Nov. 1.One of...
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COA says how to admit DNA testing analysis

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a defendant's convictions of child molesting and used the opinion to establish how documents explaining the underlying analysis of DNA testing may be admitted at a criminal trial.In hearing the appeal of Richard Pendergrass v. State of Indiana, No. 71A03-0712-CR-588, the appellate court discovered after a thorough review of caselaw that there was no precedent in place to establish the admittance at a criminal trial of those documents. Richard Pendergrass appealed his child molesting convictions, arguing...
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SCOTUS upholds Indiana voter ID law

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Indiana's law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot is constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning.The nation's high court issued its decision at 10 a.m. on the pair of consolidated cases, William Crawford, et al. v. Marion County Election Board, et al., No. 07-21, and Indiana Democratic Party, et al. v. Todd Rokita, No. 07-25. The decision comes just a week prior to Indiana's primary on May 6, upholding the strictest voter ID law in the...
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Judge: 'I didn't lie ...': Marion Superior jurist faces disciplinary panel

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Marion Superior Judge Grant W. Hawkins is used to spending his days in court. But on Oct. 6 and 7, he wasn't on the bench; the jurist was the one being judged. Already, his former part-time commissioner has resigned and been permanently banned from any judicial role because of this issue, and Judge Hawkins is battling 11 misconduct charges against him that could mean his judicial career is on the line. But before he finds out his fate, the judge is...
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State submits SCOTUS brief in pro se case

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Trial courts should be able to deny criminal defendants the right to represent themselves when that person can't communicate coherently with the court or jury, the Indiana Attorney General's Office wants the nation's highest court to decide.The state submitted a brief this week to the Supreme Court of the United States, which will hear arguments March 26 in the Hoosier-based pro se case of Indiana v. Ahmad Edwards, No. 07-208. You can view the 74-page brief online here.Dating to July 1999,...
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COA affirms order to enjoin

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment enjoining some members of a class action suit from pursuing a quiet title action, finding the agreements of a settlement disposed of all claims in property between the class and a company.In Fern E. Firestone, et al. v. American Premier Underwriters Inc. and U.S. Railroad Vest, Corp., No. 06A01-0804-CV-199, the appellate court had to determine whether the trial court erred in ruling that claims brought by Wayne E. Boyd and Bunker Farms to...
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Insurance write-offs benefit for insured

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled write-offs constitute insurance benefits for which an insured has paid directly, and as a result opposing parties in suits can't introduce evidence of write-offs to reduce damage awards. In Brandon Stanley v. Danny Walker, No. 41A01-0610-CV-462, the appellate court looked to courts in other jurisdictions for the answer to whether write-offs negotiated by an insurer amount to an "insurance benefit" and should therefore be excluded when calculating the actual extent...
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Plea agreement, child support issues granted transfer

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer to one case dealing with child support, and two cases dealing post-conviction relief. The court also granted transfer to three cases involving sex offenders.In the case Marla K. Young v. Timothy S. Young, No. 09A05-0701-CV-52, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's calculation of Timothy's child support obligation. The appellate court found the trial court erroneously calculated Timothy's weekly gross income, and remanded the trial court to add...
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Dead candidates remain on primary ballot

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals examined state statutes to determine which apply when a candidate dies before the primary but wins the election, an issue the court hadn't tackled before. In Dan Lockard v. Charles Miles and John Mullican, No. 84A04-0708-CV-493, Lockard challenged his loss to Charles Miles in the Terre Haute Democratic primary. Miles died April 18, 2007, nearly three weeks before the May 8 primary, and media in Terre Haute first reported his death April 19. Lockard and Miles were...
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Online opinions access hits a snag

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Court-watchers looking online to view Indiana's appellate decisions have been denied two days of opinions because those published rulings were not posted online.A set of three dozen opinions came down Tuesday and Wednesday, but a change last month in how access is provided to those daily rulings meant that only online viewers, those directly involved in a decided case, or those who've traveled to the Indiana Statehouse to inspect opinions knew that any rulings had been released.By noon today, a list...
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COA to conduct arguments in Syracuse

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
The Indiana Court of Appeals travels north to a Syracuse high school Thursday to hear arguments in a case involving the search and discovery of drugs in a car. In Jerald J. Womack v. State of Indiana, 43A03-0706-CR-251, Womack appealed his convictions and sentence for Class D felony marijuana possession and for being a habitual controlled-substance offender. The Court of Appeals will determine whether the police search of Womack's car violated his rights under the U.S. and Indiana constitutions and if...
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SCOTUS rules on money laundering

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
In a split decision this morning, the Supreme Court of the United States has defined money laundering and tossed out the convictions of an East Chicago man.The high court ruled on U.S. v. Efrain Santos, et al., No. 06-1005, which involved a money-laundering ring in East Chicago.A majority of justices held today that "proceeds" according to the federal money-laundering statute applies only to transactions involving criminal profits, not criminal receipts.Indianapolis attorney Todd Vare with Barnes & Thornburg argued before the high court...
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Incurred risk not malpractice defense

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
A doctor cannot use evidence of a patient's previous surgeries or pursue an incurred-risk defense against a medical malpractice suit, the Court of Appeals ruled today. In Brenda Spar v. Jin S. Cha, M.D., No. 45A05-0611-CV-683, Spar appealed the jury decision in favor of Dr. Cha in her medical malpractice claim against the OB/GYN for a surgery he performed on her. Spar previously had been in a serious automobile accident and as a result had numerous abdominal surgeries. When she decided to...
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District Court upholds jury award against GM

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
A U.S. District judge chastised General Motors for the way the company treated its salaried employees who gave up being under union protection and later wanted to rejoin the union as hourly workers. In an opinion released Aug. 15, Judge David Hamilton of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, upheld a $3.1 jury award against GM for promissory estoppel claims, finding the plaintiffs had provided sufficient evidence to prove their Sixth Amendment claim against the company. Judge...
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Tax Court in Bloomington March 17

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
The Indiana Tax Court hits the road March 17 to hear arguments in a case regarding how to properly value a Meijer store for property tax purposes. The arguments will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the Moot Courtroom at Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington.In Meijer Stores Limited Partnership v. Betty Smith, Wayne Township Assessor, Michael Statzer, Wayne County Assessor, et al., No. 49T10-0609-TA-89, Meijer and Wayne County don't see eye-to-eye on the assessed value of land owned by...
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Governor names new Court of Appeals judge

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Dubois Superior Judge Elaine Brown is the newest judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals.Gov. Mitch Daniels announced this morning Judge Brown's appointment to the state's second highest appellate court, replacing Judge John Sharpnack who is taking senior status in May. "This is a dream of a lifetime," Judge Brown said, on first reaction this morning. "I'm just so extremely honored and humbled, and can't wait to get started. It's life-changing for me."The southern Indiana jurist has been on the bench...
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