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New Supreme Court lineup could change pro se case outcome

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The Indiana Supreme Court is thinking about rehearing a case it ruled on four months ago, in which a majority at the time created a new rule but offered no guidance for trial judges on informing future defendants about the dangers of proceeding pro se.

But what’s changed since that 3-2 ruling in David Hopper v. State of Indiana, No. 13S01-1007-PC-399, is what could ultimately change the outcome of this case if it’s reheard, since now-retired Justice Theodore Boehm was the authoring justice for the majority and he’s no longer a part of the state’s highest court.

Following its Sept. 28, 2010, decision, the court on Monday issued an order that expresses its interest in considering whether it should rehear the issues on this case out of Marion County.

David Hopper had originally pled guilty in 2005 to operating while intoxicated, signing a “waiver of attorney” form but later seeking post-conviction relief on the grounds that his waiver wasn’t made knowingly or intelligently and that denied him the constitutional right to counsel.

The Marion Superior judge denied that petition and the Court of Appeals reversed in Hopper’s favor, but a three-justice majority affirmed the trial judge’s findings as applied to Hopper but also using the court’s supervisory power to set a new standard for future defendants.

“Rather, we exercise our supervisory power to require that in the future a defendant expressing a desire to proceed without counsel is to be advised of the dangers of going to trial as required by Faretta, and also be informed that an attorney is usually more experienced in plea negotiations and better able to identify and evaluate any potential defenses and evidentiary or procedural problems in the prosecution’s case,” Justice Boehm wrote at the time for the majority that also included Justices Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan.

The majority noted this new advisement, which is prospectively applied, will require minimal additional time or effort at the initial hearing and may encourage defendants to accept counsel. They don’t believe it will impose a significant burden on the judicial process, but didn’t offer any specific instructions on how trial courts were to advise defendants.

As a result of the lack of guidance to trial courts, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Brent Dickson dissented. They wrote that the primary beneficiaries of the decision will be repeat offenders, people like Hopper “because he has been charged with yet another offense and it would be helpful to him if he could wipe out his last conviction for drunk driving.”

The warnings mandated by the majority aren’t required by the federal constitution and the majority explicitly declined to say that they are required by the state constitution, the chief justice wrote. He also noted that his colleagues acted “without a word” on balancing the social costs or benefits within the mandate. The dissent questioned how many people will decide not to plead guilty because of the “minimal” judicial intervention introduced by the majority, or how many repeat offenders will avoid penalties because the warning was omitted or found inadequate with the benefit of hindsight.

Following that ruling, the state filed a rehearing request in late October and Hopper did not file a response. Now in its order dated Jan. 10, the Supreme Court is ordering Hopper to file a response to the state’s rehearing request by Feb. 11. Any interested amicus curiae parties are also invited to submit briefs before that date. A separate order setting oral arguments will also be issued by the Supreme Court, which since the Hopper ruling now has a new lineup –authoring Justice Boehm has left the court and Justice Steven David has taken that seat.
 

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

  2. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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