The Indiana State Bar Association issued a statement today addressing the outrage being expressed by many people concerning a state Supreme Court decision last week, which held individuals don’t have the right to resist police who enter private residences, even if those entries are illegal.
Justices handed down a 3-2 decision on May 12 in Richard L. Barnes v. State of Indiana, No. 82S05-1007-CR-343. The majority ruled the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers is no longer recognized in Indiana. Justice Steven David authored the majority opinion, writing that a person can use the legal system for redress against unlawful police action rather than resorting to violence in the heat of the moment. Justices Brent Dickson and Robert Rucker each dissented, believing the opinion went too far and tells Hoosiers that government agents may now enter their homes illegally – without a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances.
In the week since, national and statewide media coverage has focused on the ruling and public reaction. Evansville attorney Erin Berger, who represented Barnes, plans to ask for a rehearing and is prepared to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today said he supports a rehearing to allow for a more narrow decision. On appeal, the AG’s office didn’t advocate for this broad of a ruling.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle have reacted and criticized the ruling, saying they’ll sponsor legislation to override it, and a public protest rally is being organized for Wednesday at the Statehouse. As of this morning, more than 1,300 people had signed up on Facebook to attend.
Earlier this week, the court’s public information officer, Kathryn Dolan, said the high court has received threatening calls and emails in response to the ruling. She said those threats were primarily toward police. She declined to provide specific information regarding the number of threats, what the calls or messages said, or how the threats may have impacted day-to-day functions at the court. Dolan said Indiana Capitol Police are investigating.
Today, the ISBA issued a brief two-paragraph statement:
“Everyday our courts issue opinions with which people disagree – even vigorously. While those who disagree with the opinion have a right to criticize it, the Indiana State Bar Association encourages that such criticism be in a respectful manner, excluding personal and inflammatory attacks on individual judges and law enforcement officials,” the statement says.
“Our democracy depends on an independent judiciary supported in the exercise of its constitutional obligation to decide cases fairly and dispassionately. Those decisions must be made according to law, without regard to public pressure and fear of political reprisal. In the coming weeks, the Indiana Supreme Court may be asked to reconsider the decision through a petition for rehearing. The case might also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. These are appropriate means to challenge the decision; threats and personal attacks are not.”
Terre Haute attorney and ISBA President Jeffry Lind said the statement was in direct response to the media reports about potential threats to the judiciary and police, not because of any specific concerns brought by association members.
“Attorneys knew these things were happening, and our hope is to not only support free speech but to remind everyone that the legal process has its own legal process. Violence isn’t the answer and not a part of the healthy discourse process we have,” Lind said.