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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Two opinions today from the Supreme Court

In Rosalyn West v. Betty Wadlington,et al., a 5-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

In this opinion we determine that a trial court with general jurisdiction to adjudicate claims of defamation and invasion of privacy is not ousted of jurisdiction merely because a religious defense to the claims is asserted. * * *

On February 29, 2008, West filed a complaint against Wadlington, Larkins, and the City of Indianapolis as Larkins' employer (“Defendants”) on theories of defamation and invasion of privacy. Larkins and the City filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. They argued that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution any adjudication of West's complaint would require excessive entanglement in the Church's politics and doctrine. Attached as an exhibit was an affidavit from Larkins. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice as to all Defendants. On review, addressing the merits of Defendants' excessive entanglement claim, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court. West v. Wadlington, 908 N.E.2d 1157 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009). We now grant transfer thereby vacating the opinion of the Court of Appeals. See Ind. App. R. 58(A). And although we also reverse the judgment of the trial court, we do not reach the parties' constitutional arguments. * * *

[T]his case is not ripe for adjudication employing a summary judgment standard of review. When a Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion is treated as a motion for summary judgment, the court must grant the parties a reasonable opportunity to present summary judgment materials. See Ind. Trial R. 12(B) (“In such case, all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Rule 56.”); Azhar v. Town of Fishers, 744 N.E.2d 947, 950 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001) (“Where a trial court treats a motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment, the court must grant the parties a reasonable opportunity to present T.R. 56 materials.”). In this case even though a matter outside the pleading – the Larkins affidavit – was presented to and apparently not excluded by the trial court, there is nothing before us suggesting the trial court treated this matter as a motion for summary judgment. And thus there is nothing before us to suggest the trial court afforded the parties an opportunity to present Rule 56 materials in support of or in opposition to summary judgment. Instead, because the parties treated the Defendants' motion as one to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court ruled accordingly. As noted above this was error. And on this ground we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

In Virginia Meister v. State of Indiana and the City of Union City, Indiana, a 6-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:
Virginia Meister's truck was ordered forfeited after drugs and paraphernalia were discovered in it during a warrantless search following her son's arrest for driving it on a suspended license. The Court of Appeals originally determined that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement because it was “incident to a valid arrest.” The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and remanded the case in light of Arizona v. Gant, 129 S. Ct. 1710 (2009), which concerned vehicle searches accompanying arrests. On remand, the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed that the search was invalid under Gant but held that it was nevertheless valid under the so-called “automobile exception” to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. We agree with the Court of Appeals.
ILB: see this ILB entry from May 4, 2009, headed "Indiana COA decision remanded by SCOTUS today, in light of Arizona v. Gant."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 22, 2010 02:09 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions