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Justices grant transfer in 2 cases, deny legal malpractice case

March 5, 2019

The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to consider two cases involving seized cash and an extended protective order while also denying transfer to a legal malpractice case resolved in favor of a Bloomington attorney.

Justices first agreed to hear arguments in Michael Hodges v. State of Indiana, 19S-MI-117. In that case, the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered the return of more than $60,000 in cash seized by an Indianapolis detective at a package shipping company after finding insufficient evidence to prove the money was involved in illegal activities.

Due to the parcel’s appearance and his K-9’s reaction to the parcel’s odor, the detective suspected the package was related to drug trafficking or money laundering. But upon finding no evidence of illegal activity and no allegation that Michael Hodges had been charged with any state or federal offenses in connection with the package, the appellate court ruled the cash could not reasonably be suspected to be involved in drug trafficking or money laundering.

In reaching the Hodges decision, the appellate court relied on a similar ruling Bowman v. State, 81 N.E.3d 1127 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017).

The justices also granted transfer to S.H. v. D.W., 19S-PO-118, in which D.W. was granted a two-year extension of her protective order against her ex-husband, S.H., who had previously threatened her during their contentious divorce proceedings. The Indiana Court of Appeals noted that while D.W. provided only minimal evidence to support the extension of the protective order, it was enough to satisfy her burden and was, therefore, not unreasonable.

The high court denied transfer to the remaining 17 cases it considered for the week ending March 1, including a legal malpractice case with claims against a Bloomington lawyer accused of failing to file a decree of marriage dissolution prior to his client’s death.

In Whitney A. Gates, et al. v. Joseph D. O'Connor, et al., 18A-CT-58, Joseph O’Connor was hired to represent Jerry Gates in a divorce case by Jerry’s son and legal guardian, Whitney Gates. Following Jerry’s death, Whitney filed for damages against O’Connor, alleging his failure to file the dissolution decree before Jerry’s death resulted in Whitney and his heirs receiving a lesser share of Jerry’s estate than they would have had the marriage been dissolved.

But the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of O’Connor, finding his representation of Jerry during the dissolution was not the proximate cause of any damages from loss of inheritance that Whitney might have incurred.

The full list of transfer decisions for the week ending March 1 can be found here.

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