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Opinions March 23, 2011

March 23, 2011
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Indiana Supreme Court had posted no opinions at IL deadline.

Indiana Court of Appeals
Troy R. Smith v. State of Indiana
35A02-1008-CR-996
Criminal. Reverses trial court’s order to revoke Smith’s probation due to non-payment of weekly child support – a condition of Smith’s probation. The state failed to prove Smith knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally failed to pay weekly child support and failed to prove Smith’s ability to pay.

Andrew McWhorter v. State of Indiana
33A05-1010-PC-685
Post conviction. Affirms denial of petition for post-conviction relief. The trial court did not err by accepting McWhorter’s guilty plea.

Shawn Green v. State of Indiana
49A05-1006-CR-382
Criminal. Affirms convictions of two counts of Class C felony forgery. Allowing Green to avoid a forgery conviction because he electronically signed a credit card sales receipt would run contrary to the expressed intent of the General Assembly. He “made” a “written instrument” when he signed another person’s name in the electronic box on the electronic point of sale terminal.

Donna Smith, et al. v. Emmanuel Temple Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith Inc., et al.
49A02-1007-PL-793
Civil plenary. Affirms grant of the national church’s motion to dismiss Smith’s and others verified motion for rule to show cause, alleging the local church had violated the court’s August 2009 order by refusing to allow Donna Smith to enter the church premises and refusing to restore her to the pastoral position. Smith is not a member of the church staff and does not have the right to enter the building at times other than those designated for public worship. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in, in essence, affirming the decision to elect another pastor after the August 2009 order.

Ruby Hamilton v. Eddie Woods, Helen Billingsley, and Kathleen Henderson (NFP)

45A03-1009-SC-503
Small claim. Reverses small claims court judgments, ruling the court’s judgments in an estate case are not sustainable on a theory of contract or contribution.

Deangelo Banks v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1006-CR-689
Criminal. Affirms convictions of Class A felonies rape and criminal deviate conduct, and Class D felony strangulation.

Linda (Fritts) Christopher v. Ronald Fritts (NFP)
34A04-1008-DR-508
Domestic relation. Affirms trial court’s order on division of marital property and determining child support issues, ruling the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give appellant credit toward child support obligation for overnight visits with the couple’s child.

Cortez Lee v. State of Indiana (NFP)
02A03-1008-CR-413
Criminal. Affirms conviction of and sentence for Class B felony neglect of a dependent.

James A. Nelson v. State of Indiana (NFP)
26A01-1011-PC-568
Post conviction. Affirms denial of petition for post-conviction relief.

Anthony Vanscyoc v. State of Indiana (NFP)
18A02-1008-CR-915
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class B felony aggravated battery.

Aaron Israel and Gary Robertson v. J. David Donahue, et al. (NFP)
46A03-1008-PL-445
Civil plenary. Affirms denial of Israel’s petition for judicial review of administrative decision and/or petition for writ of mandate to either enjoin noncompliance or order compliance with the law.

Jeffrey A. Graham v. State of Indiana (NFP)
03A01-1009-CR-459
Criminal. Affirms revocation of probation and remands with instructions to correct the order revoking probation and recalculate Graham’s sentence consistent with the appellate decision.

Lalena D. Ricketts Boller v. Scott W. Ricketts (NFP)
18A02-1006-DR-629
Domestic relation. Dismisses Boller’s appeal of the order of child support modification and restriction of parenting time, medical fees owed, and the payment of attorney fees and guardian ad litem fees following the dissolution of her marriage.

In the Matter of the Paternity of S.A.; G.L. v. T.A. (NFP)
49A02-1009-JP-967
Juvenile. Reverses denial of G.L.’s motion to correct error and remands with instructions the trial court enter a new order establishing the father’s child support obligation consistent with the appellate decision.

James Phillips v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1008-CR-907
Criminal. Affirms conviction of felony murder and Class B felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of H.P.; M.G. and R.P. v. I.D.C.S. (NFP)
20A03-1007-JT-397
Juvenile. Affirms involuntary termination of parental rights.

Jermarcus J. Starnes v. State of Indiana (NFP)
20A04-1007-CR-486
Criminal. Affirms convictions of and sentence for two counts of Class B felony dealing in cocaine.

Indiana Tax Court had posted no opinions at IL deadline.
 

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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