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The IBA's Criminal Justice and Appellate Sections File Amicus Brief on Sentencing Issue

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By James Bell and Casey Kannenberg, Bingham McHale
 

Bell James Bell

Sentencing hearings occur in the vast majority of Indiana’s criminal cases. For years, the tools trial judges have used to determine a reasonable sentence have included testimony, character letters, the defendant’s background and Indiana’s sentencing statutes. Recently, Indiana’s trial courts have begun utilizing “scoring models” to help determine a reasonable sentence. The practice of using such “scoring models” was recently challenged by a criminal defendant and his case reached the Supreme Court of Indiana.
 

Kannenberg Casey Kannenberg

Specifically, in Malenchik v. State of Indiana, No. 79S02-0908-CR-364 (Ind. 2010), the trial court, at sentencing, considered the results of a Level of Service Inventory-Revised (“LSI-R”) Report and the results of the defendant’s Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (“SASSI”). The defendant’s score on the LSI-R placed him in the “High Risk/Needs” category and the SASSI indicated that the defendant has a “high probability” of having a substance dependency. During the sentencing hearing, the judge referenced both the LSI-R and SASSI results, noting that “[Y]our LSIR score is high. Your SASSI score is high with a high probability of substance dependence disorder.” Id. at 3. After considering the Reports and other factors, the trial court ultimately sentenced the defendant to six years imprisonment, with two years suspended. Malenchik, No. 79S02-0908-CR-364, at 3, 4.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the trial court’s use of these scoring models. The State, on the other hand, argued that the Reports may be used in criminal sentencing “if employed consistently with [their] proper purposes and limitations.” Id. Eventually, these arguments reached the Supreme Court of Indiana.

However, prior to ruling on the issue, Chief Justice Shepard requested amicus briefs to aid the Court in reaching a conclusion. With the approval of the IBA Board of Directors, the IBA’s Criminal Justice and Appellate Sections drafted and filed an amicus curiae brief. Prior to the filing of the brief, members of these sections polled judges and criminal practitioners to determine the IBA’s position. Regardless of the position taken by the IBA, the views of all members were contained in the amicus brief and presented to the Court.

The Supreme Court of Indiana eventually arrived at a balanced result that upheld the use of “scoring models,” but limited their use. Specifically, the Court held that “legitimate offender assessment instruments do not replace but may inform a trial court’s sentencing determinations.” Malenchik, No. 79S02-0908-CR-364, at 2. The Court also concluded that “[t]hese evaluations and their scores are not intended to serve as aggravating or mitigating circumstances nor to determine the gross length of sentence, but a trial court may employ such results in formulating the manner in which a sentence is to be served.” Id. at 14.

The Criminal Justice and Appellate Sections would like to thank the judges and lawyers who shared their views and aided in the drafting of this amicus brief. In addition, both sections would like to give a special thanks to Professor Joel Schumm of the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis for taking his personal time to draft the amicus brief and for allowing the voices of the IBA’s members to be heard.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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