Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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The County Department of Child Services filed a petition to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of Mother to her four children. The case was tried to a judge who resigned before reporting recommended findings and conclusions to Judge Marilyn Moores. The case was transferred to Magistrate Larry Bradley, who reviewed the hearing record and reported recommended findings and conclusions without holding a new evidentiary hearing. Judge Moores approved the findings and conclusions and terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding that, in accord with In re I.P., also decided today, the procedure used in this case violated Mother’s due process rights. Remanded. View "In re Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of S.B." on Justia Law

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The County Department of Child Services filed a petition to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of Father to his child. At the conclusion of the termination hearing, the magistrate that presided over the hearing resigned her position before reporting recommended factual findings and conclusions to Judge Marilyn Moores. The case was subsequently transferred to Magistrate Larry Bradley, who reviewed the hearing record and reported recommended findings and conclusions without holding a new evidentiary hearing. Judge Moores approved the findings and conclusions and terminated Father’s parental rights. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where a case is tried to a judge who resigns before determining the issues, a successor judge cannot decide the issues or enter findings without a trial de novo. Remanded. View "In re Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of I.P." on Justia Law

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A law enforcement officer stopped the vehicle Defendant was driving after observing the vehicle driving under the speed limit and coming to a full stop before turning onto a county road, where Defendant drove left of center. Defendant was subsequently charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.08 or more. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress on the ground that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop, taking judicial notice of the poor condition of the county’s roads, which required “evasive action” on the part of drivers. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that, under these circumstances, the trial court did not clearly err in concluding that Defendant’s driving left of center did not provide reasonable suspicion to stop him. View "State v. Keck" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with four misdemeanors after a law enforcement officer stopped her vehicle for “unsafe lane movement,” conducted field sobriety tests on Defendant, which she failed, and discovered marijuana concealed in Defendant’s clothing. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion, concluding that, while a video from the officer’s vehicle did not show Defendant’s vehicle leaving the roadway, it did show Defendant’s vehicle veering onto the white fog line, and to the extent the officer’s testimony conflicted with the video, the testimony was more reliable than the video. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer’s conduct was reasonable, and the stop was constitutional. View "Robinson v. State" on Justia Law

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I.T., who admitted to conduct that would be a Class B felony child molesting if committed by an adult, was ordered by the trial court to undergo therapeutic polygraph examinations. During one of those exams, I.T. admitted to molesting two other children. Based on those statements, the State filed a new delinquency petition. I.T. moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the Juvenile Mental Health Statute, which bars a child’s statement to a mental health evaluator from being admitted into evidence to prove delinquency, barred the State’s evidence. The trial court granted the motion. The State appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State may appeal a juvenile court order that suppresses evidence if doing so terminates the proceeding; and (2) the Statute’s limited immunity prohibits both use and derivative use of a juvenile’s statements to prove delinquency. View "State v. I.T." on Justia Law

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A driver hit Britney Meux, who later died from her injuries, and fled the scene. The State charged the alleged driver, Jason Cozmanoff, with thirteen crimes, including one count of reckless homicide. A few weeks later, Meux’s Estate sued Cozmanoff for wrongful death. The Estate then served Cozmanoff with discovery requests. If Cozmanoff were to invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to comply with the Estate’s requests, the civil jury could infer he was liable for causing Meux’s death. But if he were to provide discovery responses, the State could use his testimony and responses against him in his criminal trial. Cozmanoff moved to stay the civil case pending the resolution of his criminal prosecution, citing his Fifth Amendment privilege. The trial court granted a limited stay of discovery but ordered him to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering a stay. View "Hardiman v. Cozmanoff" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Common Council of the City of Evansville enacted an ordinance (“the Amending Ordinance”) that amended an existing smoking ban (“the Smoking Ban”). The Amending Ordinance extended the Smoking Ban to bars, taverns, and eating establishments but exempted riverboat casinos from the Smoking Ban. Various bars and private clubs brought actions against the City and its Council, claiming that the Amending Ordinance was unconstitutional. The trial court upheld the constitutionality of the Amending Ordinance, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on its face, the Amending Ordinance violates the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution because the disparate treatment is not reasonably related to the inherent differences between divergently-related classes; and (2) the Amending Ordinance must be stricken in its entirety. View "Paul Stieler Enters., Inc. v. City of Evansville" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder, felony murder, robbery, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding (1) Ind. Code 35-50-2-9(1) is constitutional and its constitutionality does not require that the weighing of aggravators and mitigators be done beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court did not commit prejudicial error in its rulings regarding admission of evidence, use of an exhibit, instruction on felony murder, provision of a definition of asportation, and denial of surrebuttal; and (3) Defendant’s life sentence without the possibility of parole was appropriate. View "Inman v. State" on Justia Law

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A fire destroyed a restaurant insured by Insurers. The Insurers brought suit against the City of Indianapolis and Veolia Water Indianapolis, LLC - a private, for-profit company responsible for operating the City’s water utility pursuant to a contract with the City - claiming that the water supply in the hydrants near the restaurant was inadequate to fight the fire. The City claimed sovereign immunity under both the common law and the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA). Veolia also claimed common law sovereign immunity from liability. The trial court concluded that the City and Veolia were not entitled to sovereign immunity regarding the adequacy of the water supply. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court’s rulings that Veolia was not entitled to common law sovereign immunity and that the City was not entitled to statutory sovereign immunity from liability for damages resulting from an inadequate water supply; and (2) reversed the trial court’s ruling that the City was not entitled to common law sovereign immunity, as a governmental unit’s failure to provide adequate fire protection is an exception to governmental tort liability under Campbell v. State. View "Veolia Water Indianapolis, LLC v. Nat'l Trust Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of burglary as a class C felony and theft as a class D felony. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted transfer to address Defendant's argument that the trial court erred by admitting DNA evidence in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting certain DNA evidence, as the Constitution does not require a laboratory technician involved in the chain of custody of DNA evidence to testify at trial in order to satisfy the demands of a defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation. View "Speers v. State" on Justia Law