Opinions March 30, 2022

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The following Indiana Supreme Court opinion was posted after IL deadline Tuesday:
Terry L. Abbott v. State of Indiana
Civil plenary. Reverses the grant of summary judgment in favor of the state of Indiana regarding $8,923 in cash seized from Terry Abbott but affirms the denial of Abbott’s request for appointed counsel. Finds that Indiana’s racketeering forfeiture statute does not permit a court to release to a defendant funds seized in a forfeiture action so the defendant can hire counsel in that same action. Also finds that Abbott’s designated evidence regarding the origins of much of the cash seized from him was sufficient to overcome the state’s motion for summary judgment in this forfeiture action. Finally, finds that although exceptional circumstances may exist that would otherwise justify appointment of counsel, the Elkhart Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Abbott’s request given that Abbott was unlikely to succeed in defense of the forfeiture. Remands for further proceedings. Chief Justice Loretta Rush concurs in part and dissents in part with separate opinion. 

Wednesday opinions
7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Donald G. Karr, Jr. v. Mark R. Sevier, Warden
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. Judge James P. Hanlon.
Civil. Affirms the denial of Donald Karr’s petition for habeas relief after he was convicted in state court of rape and domestic battery. Finds Karr fails to show he was prejudiced by his trial counsel’s purported errors. Also finds that a U.S. Supreme Court equitable exception that excuses procedural defaults, including the six claims Karr procedurally defaulted in state court, does not apply to insubstantial claims such as the ones Karr presents for ineffective assistance of trial counsel, nor does it apply in this procedural posture.

Court of Appeals of Indiana
Scott Schaeffer v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms the denial of Scott Schaeffer’s motion to suppress evidence found in a car following a traffic stop. Finds Schaeffer’s argument on appeal misstates the application of the collective-knowledge doctrine.

Elite Construction Systems Inc., Matthew S. Gates, Heather Gates, and Brenda Travis v. Ted L. Pease (mem. dec.)
Civil plenary. Dismisses Elite Construction Systems Inc., Matthews S. Gates, Heather Gates and Brenda Travis’ appeal of the denial of their motion to set aside a default judgment entered in favor of Ted L. Pease. Finds the appeal is untimely.

Carlos Maliek Desean Neal v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms Carlos Neal’s aggregate 45-year sentence for his convictions of two counts of Level 1 felony child molesting. Finds the sentence is not inappropriate in light of the nature of Neal’s offenses and his character.

In the Matter of the Paternity of A.H. and N.H., Dawnielle Royalty (Mother) v. William Higgins (mem. dec.)
Juvenile paternity. Affirms the order modifying custody and parenting time of minor children N.H. and A.H. in favor of father William S. Higgins. Finds the Morgan Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion when it modified custody in favor of Higgins or ordered supervised parenting time for mother Dawnielle Royalty.

Larry Knight v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms the order that Larry W. Knight serve 1,440 days, which had previously been suspended, in the Indiana Department of Correction following his probation violation. Finds the Decatur Superior Court did not abuse its discretion.

In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: L.F. (Minor Child) and S.F. (Mother) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)
Juvenile termination of parental rights. Affirms the termination of mother S.F.’s parental rights to minor child L.F. Finds the unchallenged ultimate finding that S.F.’s continued relationship with L.F. posed a threat to L.F.’s well-being, together with other statutory findings, supports the Tippecanoe Superior Court’s termination order. Also finds the trial court did not clearly err when it determined that termination is in L.F.’s best interest.

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