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 think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.