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‘The State is the State’ and they share the same fate, Supreme Court rules

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The Indiana Department of Correction’s motion to obligate a convicted sex offender to continue registering was blocked by the Indiana Supreme Court on the grounds that “the State is the State.”

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order granting the DOC’s motion to correct error in Ronald G. Becker v. State of Indiana, 45S03-1301-CR-9. It ruled res judicata barred DOC from bringing the motion because the department and the county prosecutor are in privity as “the State.”

After being convicted of criminal deviate conduct, a Class B felony, Ronald Becker was initially required to register annually as a sex offender for 10 years. However, after the Legislature amended the state, Becker was classified as a sexually violent predator and required register every 90 days for his lifetime.

Becker petitioned to be relieved from the additional SVP obligations, arguing they were an unconstitutional ex post facto law as applied to him. The court agreed and ordered in 2008 that classifying him retroactively as an SVP was unconstitutional. The prosecutor did not appeal the order and the DOC did not intervene to challenge it.

Later, the state entered into an Agreed Order, saying that Becker had satisfied his registration obligations under the 10-year statute and was no longer required to register.

Less than two weeks later, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled on Lemmon v. Harris, 949 N.E. 2d 803 (Ind. 2011), which rejected an ex post facto argument. The Indiana Attorney General subsequently intervened on behalf of the DOC, arguing Becker’s registration obligation from 10 years to life was not an ex post facto violation.

The trial court granted the DOC motion to correct error and ordered Becker to register every three months for the rest of his life.

In its review, the Supreme Court concluded the DOC’s interests were represented by the local prosecutor and, therefore, they are in privity for purposes of res judicata. Therefore, the 2008 Order is binding against the DOC.

“If the res judicata shoe were on the other food in this case, Becker would be hard-pressed to avoid its preclusive effects,” Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the court. “There is, after all, only one of him, with no alter egos to intervene on his behalf if a law later changed in a way favorable to his position. Final judgments in a criminal case should be similarly binding against ‘the State’ – not just the prosecutor, but also the various alter egos of the State whose substantial interests are adequately represented by the prosecutor.”

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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