Opinions June 14, 2022

The following Indiana Supreme Court opinion was posted after IL deadline on Monday:
E.F. v. St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc. d/b/a St. Vincent Stress Center
22S-MH-194
Mental health. Grants transfer and remands to the Court of Appeals of Indiana to consider any arguments E.F. or the parties may have about mootness and the public-interest exception. Finds T.W. v. St. Vincent Hospital and Healthcare Center, Inc., 121 N.E.3d 1039, 1042 (Ind. 2019), reh’g denied, does not signal that appellate courts should rarely address the merits of appeals for expired temporary commitment orders. Also finds that parties appealing from a moot involuntary commitment order should avail themselves of the opportunity to raise relevant issues, including any reasonable challenge to mootness or argument that an exception to mootness applies. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter dissents with separate opinion.

Tuesday opinions
Court of Appeals of Indiana
Trent Michael Weaver v. State of Indiana  
21A-CR-2424
Criminal. Affirms Trent Weaver’s aggregate eight-year sentence following his convictions of dealing in a narcotic drug and reckless homicide, both as a Level 5 felony. Finds the Pulaski Superior Court did not abuse its discretion when it imposed separate sentences for Weaver’s dealing and reckless homicide convictions, when it imposed consecutive sentences for those convictions or when it imposed enhanced consecutive sentences. Also finds the trial court’s sentencing statement is adequate. Finally, finds the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it sentenced Weaver.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources v. Marvin Houin, Diane Houin, Charles Houin, Houin Grain Farms, LLC, and Marvin Houin as power of attorney for Marilyn J. Ralston
21A-CC-1178
Civil collections. Affirms the Marshall Circuit Court’s judgment in favor of the Houins on their inverse condemnation claim but reverses judgment in favor of the Houins on their negligence and nuisance claims. Finds the Indiana General Assembly has granted immunity to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for tort claims arising from its operation of dams on Indiana’s rivers, streams and lakes. Also finds DNR’s failure to operate the dam at Lake of the Woods as required by the 1986 Lake Level Order constituted a taking because the Houins’ farm property flooded, which impaired their free use, enjoyment or interest in the property. Remands for further proceedings.

Nael Zuniga v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
21A-CR-2022
Criminal. Affirms Nael Zuniga’s conviction for sexual misconduct with a minor. Finds that venue in Marion County was proper. Also finds the Marion Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Rafael Carranza’s testimony.

Steven Charles Clear v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
21A-PC-2133
Post-conviction. Affirms the denial of Steven Clear’s petition for post-conviction relief. Finds the post-conviction court did not abuse its discretion when it denied his post-conviction discovery motion asking the court to compel the state to produce all evidence from trial and for his prior counsel to produce their files. Also finds Clear’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to challenge a double enhancement, nor was his appellate counsel ineffective for failing to present the double enhancement issue on direct appeal. Finally, finds Clear has not met his burden to show that the post-conviction court erred in denying his PCR petition.

In the Matter of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.T., Mother, and H.E., J.T., and H.T., Minor Children, A.T. v. Indiana Department of Child Services and Kids’ Voice of Indiana (mem. dec.)
21A-JT-2240
Juvenile termination of parental rights. Affirms the termination of mother A.T.’s parental rights to H.E., J.T. and H.T. Finds A.T. failed to meet her burden to show the evidence was insufficient to support the Marion Superior Court’s conclusion that the conditions that led to the removal of the children and placement outside the home would not be remedied. Also finds the trial court did not commit clear error in terminating A.T.’s parental rights.

Mark Cochran v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
21A-CR-2434
Criminal. Affirms Mark Cochran’s convictions of two counts of Level 5 felony battery by means of a deadly weapon. Finds that although close in proximity of time, each of the stabbings occurred independently of each other, so Cochran was properly convicted of two counts of battery with a deadly weapon as he was charged with and convicted of attacking and injuring two separate victims. Also finds the Tippecanoe Superior Court did not err in the admission of evidence.

Kay J. Till v. Steven C. Till (mem. dec.)
21A-DR-2444
Domestic relations. Affirms the order denying Kay Till’s contempt petition against her ex-husband, Steven Till, including her request for attorney fees, and awarding disputed property to Steven. Finds Kay does not articulate any error in the Allen Circuit Court’s decision to award Steven the disputed property. Also finds Kay failed to establish that she was entitled to the disputed property, so the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying her contempt petition. Finally, finds Kay fails to demonstrate how the court abused its discretion in denying her fees request.

In the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: R.N. (Minor Child), and T.M. (Mother) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)
21A-JT-2558
Juvenile termination of parental rights. Affirms the involuntary termination of mother T.M.’s parental rights to minor child R.N. Finds the evidence amply supports the Madison Circuit Court’s conclusion that there is a reasonable probability that the conditions that resulted in R.N.’s removal or continued placement outside T.M.’s home will not be remedied. Also finds T.M. has not established that the trial court erred in terminating her parental rights.

Ashlee Marie Mercer v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
21A-CR-2681
Criminal. Affirms Ashlee Marie Mercer’s conviction for Level 6 felony domestic battery. Finds the state’s failure to name a victim in Count 2 of the charging information did not deprive Mercer of the right to a fair trial. Also finds the Vanderburgh Circuit Court’s decision not to sua sponte instruct the jury on self-defense did not amount to fundamental error.

Alfred Ladell Davis v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
21A-CR-2732
Criminal. Affirms Alfred Davis’ convictions of Level 5 felony burglary and Level 6 felony theft. Finds the evidence was sufficient to sustain Davis’ convictions.

In the Matter of: T.A. (Minor Child) and S.L. (Mother) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)
21A-JC-2771
Juvenile CHINS. Affirms the adjudication of mother S.L.’s child T.A. as a child in need of services. Finds the record supports the Owen Circuit Court’s findings that S.L. has currently mental health issues that need to be addressed, there is a history of domestic violence in the home and there is concern about S.L.’s ability to fulfill T.A.’s educational and supervision needs.

In re the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: S.W. (Minor Child) and D.B. (Father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)
21A-JT-2783
Juvenile termination of parental rights. Affirms the termination of father D.B.’s parental rights to S.W. Finds D.B. neither objected to S.W.’s move to Florida below nor argued fundamental error on appeal, so he has waived his due process claim. Also finds the evidence supports the juvenile court’s conclusion that the conditions that resulted in S.W.’s removal were not likely to be remedied. Finally, finds the evidence is sufficient to support the juvenile court’s conclusion that termination of D.B.’s parental rights was in S.W.’s best interests, and the juvenile court did not err in valuing S.W.’s relationship with a sibling over the parent-child relationship when determining S.W.’s best interests.

Jeffrey Scott James v. Karen McGuiness (mem. dec.)
21A-CT-2880
Civil tort. Affirms the dismissal of Jeffrey Scott James’ amended complaint against Karen McGuiness for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and the Marion Superior Court’s order granting McGuiness’ motion to quash a deposition. Finds the trial court properly dismissed James’ complaint. Also finds the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted McGuiness’ motion to quash.

Keith A. Morrow v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
22A-CR-134
Criminal. Affirms and reverses in part the order for Keith Morrow to pay $470 in restitution to Lionel Hardin. Finds the evidence is sufficient to support the restitution order. Also finds the Marion Superior Court erred by failing to inquire into Morrow’s ability to pay. Remands with instructions to determine Morrow’s ability to pay the court-ordered restitution.

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