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Opinions Feb. 14, 2011

February 14, 2011
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The following opinion was posted after IL deadline Friday.
Indiana Supreme Court
In the Matter of Heather McClure O'Farrell
29S00-0902-DI-76
Discipline. Publicly reprimands O’Farrell for engaging in misconduct by making agreements for and charging unreasonable fees in violation of Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(a). She violated the rule by including an improper nonrefundability provision in her flat fee agreements and by charging and collecting flat fees that were nonrefundable regardless of the circumstances. Chief Justice Shepard and Justice Rucker dissent as to the sanction, finding a period of suspension without automatic reinstatement necessary for the protection of clients.

Today’s opinions
7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Cynthia Kartman, et al. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., et al.
09-1725
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, Judge William T. Lawrence.
Civil. Reverses District Court ruling that a class claim for injunctive relief could proceed under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23(b)(2) and certification of a class to determine whether State Farm should be required to re-inspect policyholders’ roofs pursuant to a uniform and objective standard. There is no contract or tort-based duty requiring the insurer to use a particular standard for assessing hail damage. Also, the requested injunction is neither appropriate nor final.

Indiana Supreme Court had posted no opinions at IL deadline.

Indiana Court of Appeals
Ryan J. Goens v. State of Indiana
41A01-1006-CR-277
Criminal. Reverses denial of Goens’ motion to suppress. The traffic stop that resulted in his arrest for driving while intoxicated wasn’t supported by reasonable suspicion.

DBL Axel, LLC v. LaSalle Bank National Association, et al.
15A01-1003-PL-205
Civil plenary. Grants rehearing on the issue of whether the trial court’s order directing turnover of funds in favor of LaSalle Bank violated DBL’s due process rights to the extent that it had not been determined whether DBL was still in possession of the funds at the time the trial court issued the order. Holds that, where in question, the court must first make a factual determination as to the whereabouts of the property. Vacates original opinion, reverses, and remands.

Jeremy James Lahr v. State of Indiana (NFP)
02A03-1006-CR-337
Criminal. Affirms convictions of three counts of Class A felony child molesting, two counts of Class C felony child molesting, one count of Class D felony fondling in the presence of a minor, and one count of Class D felony dissemination of matter harmful to minors.

Charles Summers v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1006-CR-707
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class D felony strangulation and reverses conviction of Class A misdemeanor battery. Remands for trial court to vacate battery conviction.

Jeruan L. Brown v. State of Indiana (NFP)
02A04-1006-CR-368
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class B felony dealing in cocaine.

Michael P. Singh v. State of Indiana (NFP)
71A03-1007-CR-532
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class D felony intimidation.

Sandra McDaniel v. State of Indiana (NFP)
24A01-1005-CR-264
Criminal. Affirms sentence following guilty plea to Class D felony operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance.

Jerry Williams v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1006-CR-708
Criminal. Affirms convictions of four counts of Class A felony criminal deviate conduct.

Auditor of Clark Ct., et al. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A. (NFP)
10A05-1007-PL-418
Civil plenary. Reverses grant of summary judgment for JP Morgan Chase on the county’s complaint seeking recovery of penalties that the IRS had assessed against it for Chase’s refusal to honor the electronic funds transfer payment requests. Remands for further proceedings. Judge Baker concurs in result.

Indiana Tax Court had posted no opinions at IL deadline.

The Indiana Supreme Court granted four transfers and denied 34 for the week ending Feb. 11, 2011.
 

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  1. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  3. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  4. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  5. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

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