Courts

Supporting politicians: Legal industry among biggest contributors to campaigns

January 1, 2008
Rebecca Berfanger
 Attorneys' total contributions nationally to 2008 presidential candidates*:If you've been getting calls since the primaries or even earlier, asking you to donate to political party A or candidate B, or to help to spread the word about issue C, you're not alone. It's no secret that attorneys - whether as individuals or as a combined effort of attorneys in a firm - contribute to campaigns. In federal campaigns in 2004 and so far this year, Indiana lawyers are listed as...
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UPDATE: SCOTUS upholds Indiana voter ID law

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A week before Hoosier voters head to the polls, the nation's highest court has upheld Indiana's law requiring voters to show identification before casting a ballot. The Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision, this morning in the pair of consolidated Hoosier 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 rejected the constitutional challenge to the strictest voter ID law in...
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Supreme Court affirms COA decision

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals on a case it granted transfer to Friday. Justices granted transfer late last week in Floyd Tewell v. State of Indiana, No. 48S02-0701-PC-118, in which the court was asked to rule on whether Tewell's request challenging his prison detainment should have been treated as post-conviction relief or a writ of habeas corpus. In an order posted online today and dated Jan. 11, the Supreme Court adopted the opinion of the...
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Comments sought on FMLA jury instructions

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
The 7th Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions Committee is accepting public comments regarding the proposed Family and Medical Leave Act pattern civil jury instructions for the Circuit Court. The committee welcomes comment before submission to the Circuit Council for approval and promulgation. Congress on Jan. 28 extended FMLA eligibility to include employees who need time off to handle certain qualifying "exigencies" related to certain family members' service or call-up for service in a war, national emergency, or military operation designated by the...
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Transfer granted to confrontation issue

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer to five cases Aug. 14, including a case that asks whether a defendant has the right to confront the lab technician who prepared a certificate of analysis. The high court granted transfer to Richard Pendergrass v. State of Indiana, No. 71A03-0712-CR-588, in which the Indiana Court of Appeals in July affirmed Richard Pendergrass' convictions of child molesting. The appellate court ruled Pendergrass' Sixth Amendment right to confrontation wasn't violated with the admittance of a certificate of analysis...
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Court orders suit against Papa John's to trial

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of a national pizza chain and its employee, finding there were genuine issues of fact as to whether the employee's statement to police was protected by privilege. In Thomas Williams and Sanford Kelsey v. Kelly Eugene Tharp and Papa John's U.S.A. Inc., No. 29A02-0707-CV-625, Thomas Williams and Sanford Kelsey appealed the trial court grant of summary judgment in favor of Papa John's on their claims for defamation, false imprisonment,...
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COA: Priest abuse suit can proceed

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The Indiana Court of Appeals this week declined to take an interlocutory appeal on a case accusing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis of covering up an ex-priest's history of sexual abuse.In denying the case of Archdiocese of Indianapolis, et al. v. John Doe NM, 49A05-0802-CV-00075, the court has given its go ahead for the Marion County civil suit to proceed to trial; it would be the first of 13 against the archdiocese to survive summary judgment. The suit was brought by a...
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Justices take riverboat revenue case

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The state's highest court has agreed to hear a case involving $16 million of East Chicago riverboat casino revenues and whether a private business can shield its financial records from the public.The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Aug. 14 in Steve Carter v. East Chicago Second Century, et al., No. 49A02-0708-CV-722. The case concerns the attorney general's request last year for a public accounting of money disbursed to Second Century from the state-licensed riverboat, which eventually became Harrah's.In a March ruling,...
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Court of Appeals rules against FSSA

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's dismissal of an action against the Family and Social Services Administration regarding the denial of Medicaid applications, finding the FSSA relied on an incorrect statute to justify the denial of new evidence supporting a disability claim on the appellate level. In William Curtis, Gary Stewart, and Walter Raines, on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated v. E. Mitchell Roob Jr., as Secretary of Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, and Jeff...
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COA: Attorney must wait to collect fees

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's ruling on when an attorney could receive his compensation under a contingency fee agreement, even though the attorney didn't submit a transcript of the bench trial detailing the trial court's findings. In Thomas J. Herr v. Carter Lumber Inc., The Carter Jones Lumber Company, and Brian L. Oaks, No. 79A02-0803-CV-290, before ruling on the issue Thomas Herr was appealing - whether the trial court erred in ordering he receive compensation under a...
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Judges disagrees about jury-verdict reversal

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The chief judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals is calling a majority's decision today a "radical act" in reversing a $45,000 jury verdict in favor of a former Butler University football player who was suspended from the school after being accused of raping a female volleyball player.In Susana Henri v. Stephen Curto, No. 49A02-0709-CV-777, Chief Judge John G. Baker disagreed with his two colleagues - authoring Judge Patricia Riley and Judge Margret Robb, who reversed the Marion County jury decision and...
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COA Judge John T. Sharpnack retires

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
After 17 years on the appellate bench, Judge John T. Sharpnack is retiring today from the Indiana Court of Appeals.Though he's stepping down as a full-time jurist, Judge Sharpnack plans to continue his work as a senior judge starting Monday; he reaches the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 75 May 7.A 3 p.m. retirement ceremony was planned to mark his departure from the court, with Chief Judge John Baker presiding. Judge Sharpnack's family, colleagues, former law clerks, and special guests were...
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Supreme Court record manager retires

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
After spending 22 years as the Indiana Supreme Court's director of information management, John Newman has decided it's time to leave state government to pursue his passion for writing. Newman's last day is July 25. Newman started his career in state government in 1970, taking oral history interviews for the Indiana State Library. He was later named Indiana's state archivist, a position he held until 1986 when he became the director of information management for the Supreme Court.As court records manager,...
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Appellate office clears backlog

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A new shift in the Indiana Appellate Clerk's Office has helped eliminate a backlog that created delays for some files getting to the appropriate court and appearing on the docket.Dealing with a backlog that's been evident for months, Appellate Clerk Kevin Smith started making changes late last year after becoming concerned with the ability to keep up with growing caseloads and intake workloads. The office implemented staff and organizational changes in January that involved hiring new employees, shuffling existing staff, and...
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Supreme Court grants 3 transfers

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer late last week to three cases to rule on issues of double recovery, evidence obtained through search warrants, and emotional distress. The court granted transfer to Ronald Mayes v. Second Injury Fund, No. 93A02-0702-EX-162, in which Mayes appealed the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board's denial of his petition for compensation from the Second Injury Fund. Mayes argued his settlement with a third-party tortfeasor shouldn't bar his recovery as a matter of law. At issue in the appeal...
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Solvent defendant must pay for interpreter

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
A solvent, non-English speaking defendant in a criminal case must pay for a defense interpreter, but the court will continue to provide for proceedings interpreters at the public's expense, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court, upholding a previous decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The high court granted transfer to Jesus Arrieta v. State of Indiana, No. 10S05-0704-CR-139, to determine whether Arrieta was entitled to a court-funded defense interpreter. Arrieta, who did not speak English, was charged with dealing cocaine, a Class...
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Court: Michigan lawyer to stay away for 2 years

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
An embattled Michigan attorney is barred for two years from taking any new cases in Hoosier courts, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today. Justices issued a per curiam opinion today in disciplinary action In the Matter of Geoffrey N. Fieger, No. 98S00-0609-DI-340, finding the attorney committed misconduct by making material misrepresentations in a sworn application for temporary admission to St. Joseph Circuit Court in late 2005. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert Rucker agreed on the two-year...
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New federal chief judge for Southern District

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A new chief judge has taken the leadership reins for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.On Jan. 1, U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton replaced Judge Larry J. McKinney as chief judge, meaning he'll be expected to handle the court's administrative matters and be a chief spokesperson for the court until 2015.During Judge McKinney's seven-year term as chief of the nation's third-busiest District Court, he'd led a court handling 23,000 civil and criminal cases, helped launch an...
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SCOTUS: Lethal injection allowed

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
While lethal injection itself isn't unconstitutional, a ruling today from the U.S. Supreme Court has left open the door for more legal challenges to how states administer the deadly drugs. But on a broader level, the one justice who supported the 1976 decision to reinstate Capital punishment is now in favor of reigniting the debate on the death penalty and striking it down.In a widely splintered 7-2 decision in Baze, et al. v. Rees, et al., No. 07-5439, justices wrote a series...
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Court: Broker must pay back commission

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
A broker who breaches his fiduciary duty to disclose material information to a client loses the right to collect a commission for his services, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today. The high court unanimously reversed a trial court decision finding that although a broker breached his fiduciary duty to his client, his commission shouldn't be revoked and be repaid to his client.In Tonda Beth Nichols v. Rex David Minnick and R. David Minnick Inc. d/b/a Commercial Properties, No. 53S01-0711-CV-515, Nichols sued Minnick...
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Court: No sudden heat, no voluntary manslaughter

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Supreme Court reversed a defendant's conviction of voluntary manslaughter after ruling the trial court erred by instructing the jury about voluntary manslaughter in the absence of evidence of sudden heat. In Andrew Lee Watts v. State of Indiana, No. 45S03-0611-CR-452, Watts appealed his conviction of voluntary manslaughter following a jury trial. The state charged Watts with murder following a tavern shooting, but also had the jury instructed on the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. At trial, Watts requested jury instructions...
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Defendants can waive appeal right in bargains

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Criminal defendants can waive their right to appeal a trial court's sentencing decision as part of a plea agreement, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.In a unanimous ruling in Timothy Ray Creech v. State of Indiana, No. 35S02-0709-CR-376, justices affirmed a decision from Huntington Circuit Judge Thomas M. Hakes.The case stems from a six-year executed sentence on a child-molesting charge in 2006; Creech had entered a plea agreement that left the sentence up to the trial judge but capped the executed portion...
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Court examines master commissioner statutes

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Footnotes in at least two recent Indiana Court of Appeals decisions show how the appellate court sees state statutes governing the authority master commissioners have in carrying out trial court business.In a published opinion issued today in Denia Baniaga v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0801-CR-21, the three-judge panel led by Chief Judge John G. Baker attached a footnote to the first page of the case from Marion Superior Judge Steven Eichholtz and Master Commissioner Patrick Murphy. The master commissioner heard the...
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Delayed COA appeal declared moot

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal by an election board and political candidates who challenged a candidate's ability to run as an Independent because the candidate had already lost in the election when the appeal finally made it before the appellate court. The appeal, Lake County Board of Elections and Registrations, Myrna Maldonado, Richard Medina, and Juda Parks v. Anthony Copeland, No. 45A04-0710-CV-560, came before the Court of Appeals after the November 2007 election because of an error in the...
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Judge pleads guilty, receives suspension

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
Allen Circuit Judge Thomas J. Felts pleaded guilty today in Marion Superior Court to operating a vehicle while intoxicated as a misdemeanor. Marion Superior Judge William Nelson sentenced the judge to one year probation and suspended his driver's license for 90 days, starting tomorrow. The Marion County Prosecutor's Office asked the judge to immediately suspend Judge Felt's driver's license, but Judge Nelson allowed for a one-day delay so that Judge Felts could drive home to Allen County, said Marion County Prosecutor's...
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