Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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Father murdered Mother in the presence of their two small children. Father's brother and his significant other (Guardians) were granted guardianship over the children. The paternal grandmother (Grandmother) petitioned to intervene in the guardianship for purposes of seeking grandparent visitation. Guardians argued that Grandmother lacked standing to petition for visitation. The trial court disagreed and granted limited visitation for Grandmother but later declared the grandparent visitation order void and vacated for want of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that Grandmother lacked standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Grandmother lacked standing to file a grandparent visitation petition under the Grandparent Visitation Statute because she was not the grandparent of the deceased parent, nor was she the grandparent of a dissolved marriage. View "In re Guardianship of A.J.A." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Stephen and Edward were beaten in Union elections and lost their positions. Deborah, Edward's wife, was a clerical employee and voluntary member of the Union, but the business manager/secretary-treasurer terminated Deborah's employment as well. Deborah, Stephen, and Edward all sued the Union to recover compensation for unused accrued vacation pay. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Union. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court's decision as to Edward and Stephen's claims, holding that because the Union bylaws clearly addressed the compensation, including vacation pay, of its elected officers, the Union was the sole arbiter of disputes arising under its governing documents; and (2) reversed summary judgment against Deborah's claim, holding (i) Deborah, as an employee, was entitled to accrue vacation pay unless there was an arrangement or policy to the contrary; and (ii) there was an issue of material fact as to whether an arrangement or policy regarding vacation time existed during Deborah's employment. Remanded. View "Comm'r of Labor v. Int'l Union of Painters & Allied Trades AFL-CIO, CLC Dist. Council 91" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor as class B felonies. The trial court sentenced Defendant to maximum consecutive terms after finding "substantial aggravating circumstances" and no mitigating circumstances. The court of appeals revised the sentence to concurrent terms of twenty years, finding that Defendant's forty-year sentence was not proportionate in comparison to Walker v. State and Harris v. State. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the sentence imposed by the trial court, holding that the sentence in this case was not inappropriate under Ind. R. App. 7(B) and did not warrant appellate revision. View "Chambers v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a juvenile, admitted to conduct that would constitute felony sexual battery if committed by an adult. The trial court subsequently ordered Appellant to register as a sex offender. Appellant appealed, arguing insufficient evidence supported the court's finding that he was likely to repeat a sex offense. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a juvenile may only be ordered to register as a sex offender if, after an evidentiary hearing, the trial court expressly finds by clear and convincing evidence that the juvenile is likely to commit another sex offense; and (2) the trial court erred in placing Appellant on the registry where its order was neither issued in connection with an evidentiary hearing, nor accompanied by any findings. View "N.L. v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with the murder of his mother. He was subsequently found guilty but mentally ill and ultimately sentenced to fifty-five years' incarceration. Defendant filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance for, inter alia, failing to object to the trial court's tendered instruction on the penal consequences of verdicts for not responsible by reason of insanity and guilty but mentally ill. Defendant's petition was denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to satisfy the prejudice prong of Strickland v. Washington and therefore could not prevail on his ineffective assistance claim. View "Passwater v. State" on Justia Law

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This action involved a dispute between a township small claims court and the township trustee and advisory board over changes in the small claims court. The small claims court issued an order for mandate and mandate of funds directing the trustee and advisory board not to move the location of the court, to increase court employees' salary, to provide two new clerk positions, and to renovate the current court building. The township opposed the mandate order. The Supreme Court appointed a special judge to hear the matter. After a trial, the special judge (1) affirmed the mandate order insofar as it approved the additional staff, renovations, and prohibited the relocation of the court; and (2) reversed the portion of mandate ordering salary increases. The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the special judge, holding (1) the decree correctly prohibited the relocation of the court; and (2) the decree properly directed the township to pay the reasonable attorney fees and expenses incurred by each side in this case. View "In re Mandate of Funds for Ctr. Twp. of Marion County Small Claims Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant was stopped by a police officer due to his darkly-shaded tinted windows. The police officer smelled marijuana and subsequently searched Defendant's person, where he found cocaine. The State charged Defendant with felony possession of cocaine. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the officer lacked probable cause to stop him and search his person. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that, although the tint of the windows on Defendant's car was within the statutorily defined limits, the officer's good faith subjective belief of Defendant's violation of a traffic law was enough to justify the initial stop. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the officer had reasonable suspicion that the tint on Defendant's vehicle's windows was in violation of the window tint statute, and therefore, the initial stop was justified; (2) the officer had probable cause to search Defendant's person after smelling marijuana; and (3) because the search was legal, the trial court correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search. View "Sanders v. State" on Justia Law

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Upon Father and Mother's divorce, Father and Mother agreed that Mother would assume sole financial responsibility of Child and waive enforcement of Father's child support arrearage in exchange for Father's agreement to waive his parenting time rights. The agreement also required Father to pay any support arrearage through the date of the trial court's approval of the agreement if Father sought parenting time in the future. Father subsequently sought modification of parenting time seeking to establish visitation with Child. The trial court denied Father's request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the parties' agreement to forego parenting time in exchange for relief from child support was void against public policy; and (2) the trial court's prohibition against Father exercising any parenting time with Child was not supported by the record. Remanded. View "Perkinson v. Perkinson" on Justia Law

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Buyers bought a home from Sellers after Sellers completed Indiana's statutory disclosure forms attesting to the home's condition. Buyers subsequently discovered costly defects in the home. Buyers sued Sellers, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation. The trial court awarded damages to Plaintiffs. At issue on appeal was whether Indiana's disclosure statutes created a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation or if the common law still applied and the principle of caveat emptor precluded recovery on the action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the legislature's adoption of the disclosure statutes abrogated the state's common law jurisprudence falling within their scope, and therefore, the disclosure statues create liability for sellers when they fail to truthfully disclose the condition of features of their property that must be disclosed to the buyer; and (2) the district court erred in finding that Sellers were liable to Buyers because the defects in the home "should have been obvious" to Sellers, as Sellers' "actual knowledge" of the defects was not established. Remanded. View "Johnson v. Wysocki" on Justia Law

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After Defendant was charged with murder, he filed a motion seeking bail. At the same time, Defendant filed a motion seeking a declaration that Ind. Code 35-33-8-2(b), which assigns to a defendant charged with murder the burden of showing he is entitled to bail, is unconstitutional. The trial court denied Defendant bail. The Supreme Court declared the statute unconstitutional but nevertheless affirmed, holding (1) when a defendant charged with murder seeks bail, the burden must be placed on the State to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant should be denied bail; but (2) under the circumstances presented in this case, the trial court did not err in denying Defendant bail. View "Fry v. State" on Justia Law