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Lawmakers discuss Barnes police entry ruling

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An Indiana summer study committee met for the second time Wednesday to discuss a state Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year involving the right to resist police entry into one’s home.

The four-person Legislative Council subcommittee compromised of chair Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, and Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, listened to more than an hour’s worth of testimony on the ruling in Barnes v. State, which the Indiana Supreme Court issued on May 12.

Three justices voted to abolish residents’ long-held common law right to resist, while two dissenting justices felt the holding went too far and could be read as a free pass for police to enter homes illegally despite the Fourth Amendment. That latter train of thought is what has caused a firestorm of public opinion about the ruling, and those attending the hearing this week mostly focused their opposition to the court decision on that sentiment.

Ten residents from all corners of the state came to the Indiana Statehouse to tell lawmakers what they think, even as the Supreme Court continues weighing whether it will rehear the case.

One woman from Speedway told the panel that the Indiana Supreme Court did an “end-run” around the Legislature and that the court had stepped beyond its judicial power, while others pointed to the U.S. Constitution and the framers’ intent to give people the right to defend themselves in their own homes.

Leo Blackwell, general counsel for the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, said the ruling will hardly lead to police indiscriminately kicking in doors across the state. He stepped around offering any suggestion about what should happen on this topic and said that is something for the courts and Legislature to deal with.

“Police should not be put in the position of deciding legality on a front door step,” he said.

Blackwell said the Indiana Supreme Court's heart was in the right place and the rationale of their decision needs to be upheld. He worries that revoking the ruling could put police officers in a “Catch-22.” Without the protection provided by the Indiana Supreme Court, officers face violence when entering a home because of a safety risk or emergency situation. But if officers opt not to go in, they risk criticism or litigation later if a person is injured or killed, he said.

Panel member Lawson said she’s split on the decision because of her past roles as both a longtime police officer and also a domestic violence advocate. She largely defended police and pointed out that they do not want to enter someone’s home and that they try to avoid these situations if at all possible. But domestic violence calls, like the one police responded to in the Barnes case out Vanderburgh County, are some of the toughest for police to handle and they need the ability to protect those who are inside. She said 911 calls often provide police with enough probable cause to enter a home because someone phoning dispatch is reporting an emergency and the police are responding to that call.

Lanane, who is also an attorney, wondered whether it’s a deterrent that the federal courts allow for actions against police officers who enter a home illegally in a situation that doesn’t warrant that type of entry. He also wondered how a person is supposed to handle situations of police imposters – do nothing or try to defend if something seems suspicious.

Lanane also wondered if state statute that in 2005 adopted the “castle-doctrine” applied to police officers or if they were exempt. That law was not addressed in the Supreme Court’s decision and although nothing in the law distinguishes police, Lanane wondered if it might be worth noting that police are not exempted. Panel members also suggested eliminating no-knock, no-announce searches in Indiana, something that wasn’t a specific issue in this case but has also been the subject of criticism following a separate Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year.

 “We have to be very careful how we proceed,” Lanane said, expressing his concern about implying that it’s OK for residents to forcefully resist officers who come to their door. “These are life-and-death issues.”

At the end of the hearing, Steele said he doesn’t know where the discussion will lead or if the study committee will even make a recommendation to the full Legislature.

What happens on this may be dictated by what the Supreme Court decides to do about a rehearing petition currently pending on the Barnes case. The Evansville attorney representing Barnes and the Indiana Attorney General have both requested rehearing, and the court could make any number of choices in handling that – denying the petition with or without comment, granting it and holding new arguments for a later ruling, or issuing a clarification or new ruling that affirms or reverses its past decision fully or in part.

The legislative subcommittee plans to meet again, but the next meeting has not yet been scheduled.




 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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