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Supreme Court grants 3 transfers

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer this week to three cases, including a first impression case involving whether someone who has drugs within 1,000 feet of a youth program center run in a church can have their conviction enhanced.

In Walker Whatley v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0809-CR-808, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Walker Whatley's Class A felony conviction of possession of cocaine, ruling he wasn't within 1,000 feet of a "youth program center" because the building is a church running mostly faith-based programs. The issue of felony enhancement for a violation of a "drug free zone" defined as a youth program center hadn't been the subject of an Indiana decision.

Whatley argued because the church doesn't bear an identifier to say it's a "youth program center," the statute provides no basis for people to know if they are within 1,000 feet of one.

Examining cases from other jurisdictions, the appellate court unanimously decided the church was and remains a church and isn't converted into a youth program center by reason of its faith-based activities for young people. The pastor of the church even testified that all of the services and events for children are essentially faith based.

In Travelers Indemnity Company of America v. Jerry Jarrells, No. 29A02-0807-CV-669, the appellate judges couldn't agree on the application of a previous case involving the set-off of workers' compensation payments, which led to a split court and three separate opinions. The case involved Travelers Indemnity Co.'s attempt to recoup a portion of workers' compensation benefits following a jury trial.

Judges Carr Darden, Nancy Vaidik, and Patricia Riley disagreed as to the application of Pendleton v. Aguilar, 827 N.E.2d 614, 621 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), to the instant case. The majority - Judges Darden and Vaidik - found Travelers was entitled to summary judgment but for different reasons. The majority presumed the jury followed the trial court's instructions and applied the law contained within it; thus, Travelers is entitled to a statutory lien and or reimbursement, wrote Judge Darden. Judge Patricia Riley dissented, writing the majority attempts to distinguish Pendleton on the basis it involves an insurer seeking a pro rata reimbursement, but she believes Pendleton is on point for the situation in the instant case.

The majority remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment in favor of Travelers and to determine the value of Travelers' lien and pro rata share for purposes of reimbursement.

In Foundations of East Chicago Inc., et al. v. City of East Chicago and State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0711-CV-987, the appellate court affirmed the trial court order dismissing Foundations of East Chicago's complaint challenging legislation that allowed the city of East Chicago to exercise its authority to select recipients of economic funding provided by a riverboat casino. The city has always had the authority to enact an ordinance to modify the arrangement between casino operators, organizations, and the city, regardless of Section 302 of the 2007 Budget Act. Judge Elaine Brown concurred in result with Chief Judge John Baker in the appeal; Melissa May dissented, for the same reasons as she did in City of East Chicago v. East Chicago Second Century, Inc., 878 N.E.2d 358, 365-68 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007).

Foundations asked for transfer for the high court to decide whether the decision usurped the Gaming Commission's regulatory authority and the attorney general's power to investigate local development agreement issues on the commission's request; whether in holding East Chicago could "always" alter or terminate the agreement contravenes the Supreme Court's ruling in Zoeller v. East Chicago Second Century Inc., 904 N.E.2d 213 (Ind. 2009); and whether other issues involving the 2007 Budget Act merit the high court's review in resolving an overall controversy in which it has granted transfer in two related cases, one awaiting a decision. Foundations also questions whether the ruling in the instant case interferes with the high court's exclusive transfer jurisdiction and prior decisions that judgments are res judicata pending appeal until reversed.

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