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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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