Latest News

Court: 'mistakes' in judge's sentence

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the sentence of man convicted of defrauding Medicaid because the District Court judge's sentencing transcript was "laced with apparent mistakes and misunderstandings." In United States of America v. William J. Higdon, No. 07-3951, William Higdon appealed his 60-month sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Richard Young of the Southern District, Evansville Division. Higdon pleaded guilty to defrauding the Indiana Medicaid program, and the judge and parties agreed the sentencing guideline was 18 to 24 months....
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Court: Student complaints are absolute privilege

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
In a case of first impression, the Indiana Supreme Court held complaints made by current students under a university's anti-harassment policy are protected by absolute privilege.The Supreme Court granted transfer to Virginia Hartman and Suzanne Swinehart v. Dr. Gabe Keri, No. 02S03-0706-CV-233, to determine whether Hartman and Swinehart's statements alleging sexual harassment against professor Keri were granted absolute privilege or qualified privilege. Keri was a professor in the education department at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW), and Hartman and Swinehart...
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COA: Stop lacked reasonable suspicion

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned a defendant's drug conviction because the traffic stop that led to his arrest was unconstitutional; the police officer who pulled the car over didn't have reasonable suspicion there was criminal activity going on in the car. Damen Holly appealed his conviction of possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor in Damen Holly v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0711-CR-930. Holly was pulled over by a police officer after the officer ran a license plate check of...
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COA adjusts sentence for child molestation

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant's convictions of child molestation and child exploitation, but it adjusted his sentence after finding a mathematical error by the trial court. In Roy Bennett v. State of Indiana, No. 79A05-0705-CR-240, Bennett appealed his convictions and sentence for two counts of Class D felony child exploitation and three counts of Class C felony child molestation. Bennett's adopted daughter accused him of sexually molesting her and police searched Bennett's home, finding several computer discs containing pornographic...
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BREAKING: Lawrence confirmed

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
U.S. Magistrate Judge William T. Lawrence in Indianapolis has been confirmed as the newest federal judge on the Southern District of Indiana.Just about 4 p.m., the U.S. Senate took a break from discussion on wiretapping to move on to judicial nominations. They held a roll call vote at 4:35 p.m. They voted 97-0 at 5 p.m. to confirm Magistrate Lawrence to the judgeship, meaning he'll be the Southern District's first ever magistrate to be elevated to the constitutionally established Article III...
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Indy juvenile facility gets new leader

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility has its third new leader within a year.Frances Osburn has been promoted to superintendent, a role she's had temporarily since previous superintendent Robert Rivenburg left in June. He'd been hired in August 2007 and left to pursue an opening with the Texas prison system. Osburn started July 10.She has been with the state DOC since 1985, beginning her career as a correctional officer and most recently serving as assistant superintendent at the facility.Located at 2596 Girls...
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Moving forward on merit selection: Judiciary, bar association support statewide change

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
An effort that began more than 50 years ago is being resurrected and could eventually reshape how judges are selected throughout Indiana. Stars are aligning for a multi-faceted thrust toward merit selection and retention for all trial judges statewide, an endeavor that's been brewing behind the scenes for years but is now gaining more steam from the state's judiciary and largest bar associations. While no guarantee exists that lawmakers would even consider such a change, key players supporting the concept in...
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Firefighters allege reverse discrimination

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A reverse discrimination suit filed Tuesday in federal court against the Indianapolis Fire Department is the second bias claim made against the city in a year.The newest suit in the Southern District names 20 white firefighters who allege they were passed over for promotions to lieutenant and captain in favor of less-qualified black candidates. The case is Glen Scott, et al. v. City of Indianapolis, et al.Brought by 19 men and a woman, the suit names the city and Indianapolis Fire...
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COA affirms Lake County early-voting sites

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals late this afternoon has affirmed a preliminary injunction allowing the operation of three early-voting locations in Lake County. In John B. Curley, et al. v. Lake County Board of Elections and Registration, et al., No. 45A03-0810-CV-512, the appellate court held the trial court's order wasn't clearly erroneous when the court determined the offices of the Circuit Court Clerk in Hammond, East Chicago, and Gary are not "satellite" offices and that Indiana Code Section 3-11-10-26(a)(1) doesn't restrict the...
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Improperly fastened seatbelt can lead to stop

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
Front-seat passengers in cars must have their seatbelts properly fastened when the car is in motion, meaning the lap belt must be fastened and the shoulder belt across his or her shoulder, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today. The appellate court examined Indiana Code Section 9-19-10-2 to come to the conclusion that to avoid being stopped by a police officer for a seatbelt violation, a person must have both the lap and shoulder harnesses fastened and placed properly on the...
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Responses for Tinder investiture due April 4

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
Indiana State Bar Association members have until April 4 to RSVP to attend the investiture of Judge John D. Tinder as a circuit judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The investiture will be at 2:30 p.m. April 11 in the William E. Steckler Ceremonial Courtroom in the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 46 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis. A reception at the Columbia Club, 121 Monument Circle, Indianapolis, will immediately follow the ceremony. The ISBA is now...
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Paper wants judge to set aside libel verdict

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
A Terre Haute newspaper is asking the judge who presided over a libel trial against the paper to set aside the $1.5 million jury verdict. The Tribune-Star Publishing Company Inc., which produces the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, filed its 39-page brief to support a motion to correct errors Aug. 22 in Sullivan Circuit Court.In July, a jury awarded Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Maynard $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages in his defamation suit against the newspaper, Jeff...
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New chief defender chosen

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Indianapolis defense attorney Robert J. Hill Jr. is poised to be the next top public defender in the state's largest county.The Marion County Public Defender Agency's governing board voted March 12 for him to lead the agency after David E. Cook resigns for private practice in mid-April. Cook notified the nine-member board of his decision in December to leave the office after 13 years at the helm, setting in motion a search for his successor.To help facilitate the transition, Cook agreed today to...
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Senator facing health concerns

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
Indiana Senate assistant majority floor leader and attorney Sen. David Ford, R-Hartford City, is hospitalized and awaiting news from his doctors regarding his health.Ford, 58, was hospitalized Jan. 15 in Fort Wayne and underwent surgery Jan. 18, the same day he and Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, announced they would postpone town hall meetings scheduled for Jan. 19.A four-term senator, Ford represents Senate District 19, which covers Adams, Allen, Blackford, Grant, and Wells counties. He chairs the Technology Subcommittee of the Senate...
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Supreme Court dismisses moot appeal

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
The Indiana Supreme Court Feb. 26 granted transfer and dismissed a case involving state officials who violated the law by not following the public bidding process when they attempted to privatize a Fort Wayne development center that housed developmentally disabled adults. In Anita Stuller, et al. v. Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., et al., No. 02A05-0601-CV-22, the high court dismissed the case as moot "because of events that transpired after the appeal was initiated," according to the order.The development center at issue in the...
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Death penalty film, discussion Thursday

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
The death penalty is the topic of a film screening and discussion May 22 presented by the Indiana Coalition Acting to Suspend Executions (InCASE), Indiana University School of Law -Indianapolis' Law Students Against Capital Punishment, and the Independent Film Channel. The film, "At the Death House Door," is a personal and intimate look at the death penalty in Texas from the perspective of Carroll Pickett, a pastor who served 15 years as the death house chaplain in a Huntsville prison unit and presided...
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Grant available for Family Court Project

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
A one-year grant of up to $40,000 is available to launch a Family Court Project. The grant is an opportunity for county governments to get funding for a project that provides judicial coordination of multiple cases involving the same family. Last year, only two new projects received funding for the 2008 year, so the Indiana Supreme Court had an extra $40,000 to include in the 2009 budget, said Loretta Olesky, Family Court manager. Typically, the grants run on two-year cycles; however,...
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Judge crosses out cell tower dispute

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A federal suit is going back to Jeffersonville to decide whether a wireless carrier can put up a cell tower disguised as a Baptist church cross.U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker Thursday remanded the case Sprint Spectrum v. City of Jeffersonville Board of Zoning Appeals, No. 4:05-cv-00154-SEB-WGH, issuing a final judgment and denying cross-motions for summary judgment from both parties. The nearly three-year-old suit was filed in the Southern District of Indiana New Albany Division.Sprint wanted to build a "stealth facility"...
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Judge dismisses prisoner suit

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A federal judge in Fort Wayne has dismissed a pro se complaint against a local sheriff and jail officials because it doesn't adequately state a claim to recover for alleged sexual harassment during a weapons strip search.U.S. District Judge Philip Simon ruled in Nathan W. Romine v. Nick Yoder, et al., No. 1:08-CV-036 PS, which involved a suit from an Adams County Law Enforcement Center inmate. Romine said he was sexually harassed at the jail during a strip search for...
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Justices: MySpace use not harassment

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A teenager's use of the social networking site MySpace.com didn't rise to the level of harassment because her expletive-laden postings criticizing her principal about school policy weren't available to everyone online, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.In a unanimous ruling late Tuesday afternoon, the state's five justices agreed to reverse a lower court's decision in A.B. v. State of Indiana, No. 67S01-0709-JV-373.While the case presented justices with a chance to explore free speech rights as they pertain to online activity in...
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Judge penalizes no-show juror

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
A Lake County criminal court judge took a former juror to task Tuesday for skipping jury duty during a murder trial this spring.Superior Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. found a 20-year-old Cedar Lake resident in contempt of court and sentenced him to three hours in the county jail, as well as ordering him to carry a 24-inch by 24-inch sign saying "I failed to appear for jury duty" from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Monday outside the Crown Point courthouse.That will be a warning...
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Courts can review public school financing

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
Hoosier courts have the authority to review the state's school financing formula to determine whether Indiana is meeting a constitutional requirement to provide a quality public education for all students, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled May 2.A 2-1 ruling from the COA revives the public education financing case of Joseph Bonner, et al. v. Mitch Daniels, et al., No. 49A02-0702-CV-188, which presents an issue of first impression. Nine public school students and their families from eight different school systems throughout the...
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Justices find ineffective assistance in case

January 1, 2008
Michael Hoskins
The Indiana Supreme Court has determined an appellate attorney rendered ineffective assistance in an Evansville kidnapping case that resulted in a police dog being fatally shot 10 years ago.A unanimous court ruled Feb. 27 in Antwain Henley v. State of Indiana, No. 82S05-0701-PC-31, which comes from a Vanderburgh County case at the post-conviction relief stage involving a pro se litigant. The Court of Appeals panel issued a ruling in October 2006, reversing and holding in favor of the defendant Henley, and remanding for a new...
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Court: delayed rape conviction OK

January 1, 2008
Jennifer Nelson
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant's rape conviction, finding his due process rights weren't violated when charges were filed in 2005 for a rape that happened nearly 25 years earlier. In Thomas N. Schiro v. State of Indiana, No. 10A01-0701-CR-21, Thomas Schiro appealed his conviction of felony rape, arguing the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the charges brought against him in 2005 for two rapes that occurred in 1980 and by admitting his written sexual...
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Hearing set in Lake County early-voting case

January 1, 2008
IL Staff
Special Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider has set a hearing for the consolidated Lake Circuit Court and Lake Superior Court cases involving early-voting sites, according to Indiana Supreme Court spokesperson Kathryn Dolan. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. CDT Oct. 20 in Courtroom 1, 232 Russell St., Hammond. The Indiana Supreme Court appointed Lake Superior Judge Schneider as special judge Thursday to resolve the dispute between the Lake County courts as to whether satellite early-voting sites should be allowed to be...
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