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Monday, April 09, 2012

Ind. Courts - General Assembly revised several statutes this session in response to Supreme Court opinions

Dan Carden reports today in the NWI Times:

INDIANAPOLIS | On a yellow sheet of paper torn from a legal pad, Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. keeps the list.

It's just four Supreme Court case names and four Indiana Senate bill numbers, but amid those words and numbers lies the balance of power between the state's judicial and legislative branches.

This year's General Assembly approved four measures signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels that overturned four 2011 rulings of the state's high court. In each case, state law was clarified or changed in response to the court's interpretation of it.

"Three of them I thought they were wrong to do, and one of them I thought they were right to do," Sullivan said. "Each of them represents an interesting story of how the legislative and judicial branches interact."

Regarding the three law changes Sullivan objected to, Senate Enrolled Act 1 details individual self-defense rights following Barnes v. State, which said Hoosiers can never resist police. Senate Enrolled Act 97 redefines public intoxication in response to Moore v. State. Senate Enrolled Act 132 declares underground aquifers cannot be regulated by local governments.

On the other hand, Sullivan's dissent in Citizens State Bank v. Countryside formed the basis of Senate Enrolled Act 298, setting the priority of mortgage holders in a foreclosure action.

While Sullivan believes the Legislature did not need to act on the first three, he acknowledges it has the right to do so.

"Under our separation of powers in the government and the way our constitution works, the Legislature has the last word," Sullivan said. "Except when it comes to matters of constitutional law."

More from the story:
While the governor could have vetoed the four new laws, Daniels said he generally defers to the General Assembly, especially since only a simple majority is required to override his veto.

"If the Legislature is responding to the judgment of the judicial branch by changing the laws of the state, I have to have a really, really, really overwhelming reason to veto that," Daniels said. "And I have to do it knowing that I may not have any effect on the final outcome."

Sullivan said the stakes are considerably higher when a Supreme Court ruling interprets the Indiana Constitution, such as recent decisions approving a voter photo identification requirement and authorizing the Indiana Toll Road lease.

In those cases, short of amending the constitution — typically a four-year process — there is no legislative remedy.

"Where the rubber meets the road is when the court says that something the Legislature passed is unconstitutional," Sullivan said. "Because when the court says that, it's saying it's beyond the power of the Legislature to do what it did, and that's a hell of a thing."

A sidebar links to the 2012 enrolled acts and the related Supreme Court opinions (it uses the term "overturn", which may not be entirely accurate, the ILB prefers "revises statutes in response to ..."):
SEA 1 -- Barnes v. State

SEA 97 -- Moore v. State

SEA 132 -- Avon v. West Central Conserv. Dist.

SEA 298 -- Citizens State Bank v. Countrywide

ILB: Note that in the opinion on rehearing in Barnes, the Court in effect invites that General Assembly to act:
This also reflects the basis for our holding about defenses available to criminal defendants charged with violence against police officers: the ruling is statutory and not constitutional. The General Assembly can and does create statutory defenses to the offenses it criminalizes, and the crime of battery against a police officer stands on no different ground. What the statutory defenses should be, if any, is in its hands.
In Moore the opinion states:
Whether conduct proscribed by a criminal law should be excused under certain circumstances on grounds of public policy is a matter for legislative evaluation and statutory revision if appropriate. The judicial function is to apply the laws as enacted by the legislature. We decline the defendant's request to reverse her conviction on public policy grounds.
SEA 298 re Countrywide is the subject of this post from yesterday, quoting the Indiana Commercial Foreclosure Law blog.

Finally, in Avon, the Court points out:

Instead, we think the authority granted to Avon under the Watercourse Statutes is sufficient to permit it to regulate the Township‘s exercise of power pursuant to the Park Resources Statutes. This harmonizes the effect of both sets of statutes—our first objective when confronted with two seemingly-conflicting provisions. Klotz v. Hoyt, 900 N.E.2d 1, 5 (Ind. 2009). We presume that the Legislature intended for both of these provisions to have effect, and thus construe them together "so as to produce a harmonious statutory scheme." Id. (quoting Sanders v. State, 466 N.E.2d 424, 428 (Ind. 1984)).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 9, 2012 09:02 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions | Indiana Law