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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Ind. Courts - More on: Task Force created to evaluate the Marion County Small Claims Courts submits its report

Eric Berman of WIBC has this story on today's press conference, along with audio and a photo.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts

Ind. Law - "After two incidents, we are extremely concerned with these developments and the safety and security of our professionals and staff. "

So reads a statement (via FWJG) issued this afternoon by Faegre Baker Daniels. Some quotes:

This morning, gunshots were fired through a window at the home of Jeffrey A. Goeglein, an associate in the firm's Fort Wayne office. Fortunately, neither Jeff nor his family was injured in the incident. On the morning of March 27, David J. Kuker, a partner at the firm, was shot by an intruder at his home.

"After two incidents, we are extremely concerned with these developments and the safety and security of our professionals and staff. We are implementing further security measures to provide added protection for our people," said Andrew Humphrey, managing partner at Faegre Baker Daniels. "We are committed to supporting the investigation, and strongly encourage anyone who may have information about either incident to contact the Fort Wayne Police Department."

See also this ILB post from earlier today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Indiana Law

Ind. Courts - Task Force created to evaluate the Marion County Small Claims Courts submits its report

The Task Force created to evaluate the Marion County Small Claims Courts has issued its 33-page report. The report was submitted by Judge John G. Baker and Judge Betty Barteau. (Also available is a 453-page Appendix of background materials, divided into three parts.)*

The task force sets out three plans to address the problems identified in its report:

The Report contains 79 specific findings, followed by this Summary:
The Task Force's investigation has uncovered significant and widespread problems in the operations of the Marion County Small Claims Courts. More particularly, it is apparent that some township trustees interfere with the efficient and independent operation of the township courts by maintaining control over budgeting matters and preventing judges from managing court employees.

In addition, it appears to some debtor-defendants that creditors' attorneys have special access to, or special relationships with, some of the township courts. The appearance of a special relationship is unfortunately strengthened by large-volume case filers' ability to forum shop for whichever township court appears most receptive to their cases or exercises less scrutiny over settlements. In addition, unrepresented parties are frequently not informed of their rights or informed of township court procedures. Indeed, some defendants report difficulties in timely receiving notice of the claims filed against them.

Furthermore, the current practice of allowing all small claims cases except for landlord-tenant disputes to be filed in any township court can impose significant travel hardships on litigants.

Finally, the appeals process imposes upon appellants an extra step, specifically de novo review in the Marion Superior Court, which appellants in other counties are not required to take.

These problems need to be addressed comprehensively and in a timely manner. The township court judges are addressing some of these problems, but more thorough and systematic reforms are needed.

Starting on p. 18, the Report outlines the implementation of either Plan A (incorporate township courts into Marion County Superior Court) or Plan B (reform the existing township courts).

On page 19, the Report states: "Regardless of whether Plan A or Plan B is chosen, or even if neither is chosen, the following reforms should be implemented as soon as possible. None of these changes necessarily require statutory amendments or rule changes, although some will require the cooperation of other entities." A number of good suggestions follow on court management, court procedures, litigants' rights, court forms, court website and small claims manual. In addition:

Suggestion 8 is "The township court judges should not practice law in another township.

Suggestion 10: "Small Claims Clinic: The Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law should consider creating a Small Claims Clinic through which supervised law students could assist unrepresented defendants."

Beginning on p. 20 are the detailed implementation plans for Plan A and Plan B, plus Part C - complementary reforms. Just to list the outline for Plan A ...


1. The township courts will become the Small Claims Division of the Marion County Superior Court.

2. As with other courts in the Marion County Superior Court system, the county will be responsible for funding the Small Claims Division.

3. The county executive and the county's fiscal body, with input from the Marion Superior Court, will be responsible for providing facilities for the courts.

4. As judges of the Marion County Superior Court, the Small Claims Division judges will serve full-time, with salaries fixed by statute.

5. The township courts will become courts of record, and appeals from those courts will go directly to the Court of Appeals.

6. The Small Claims Division's jurisdiction shall include traffic infractions.

In conclusion, the Task Force has done a very thorough and well-documented study, and presented it well.

* Among the materials in Part 3 of the Appendix are the Marion County Small Claims Court Litigants' Manual; a Report on Landlord-Tenant Court Proceedings in Indiana; and the March 15, 2012 State Board of Accounts Report. And the July 18, 2011 Wall Street Journal story.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts

Ind. Law - "A co-worker of a Fort Wayne attorney who was seriously injured in a March shooting woke this morning to the sound of gunfire."

Updating this ILB entry from March 28th, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has this late morning story headed "Shots fired into home of 2nd lawyer in firm." A quote:

Police were called to the 800 block of Blackthorn Cove at 5:40 a.m. after the lawyer found two holes in a rear window and saw someone riding a bicycle on the sidewalk behind his home, according to a statement issued by the Fort Wayne Police Department.

No injuries were reported.

A canine unit followed a track southeast down a sidewalk and then east to a dead end in the area of 1000 Ivy Creek Cove, the statement said.

Investigators are exploring the possibility that this might be related to a shooting on March 27 in the nearby Shorewood subdivision, police said. Both the shooting victim, David Kuker, and today's homeowner are both employed at the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Indiana Law

Environment - "An Underground Fossil Forest Offers Clues on Climate Change"

W. Barksdale Maynard's long, fascinating story today in the weekly Science Section of the NY Times begins:

In the clammy depths of a southern Illinois coal mine lies the largest fossil forest ever discovered, at least 50 times as extensive as the previous contender.

Scientists are exploring dripping passages by the light of headlamps, mapping out an ecosystem from 307 million years ago, just before the world’s first great forests were wiped out by global warming. This vast prehistoric landscape may shed new light on climate change today.

Dating from the Pennsylvanian period of the Carboniferous era, the forest lies entombed in a series of eight active mines. They burrow through the rich seams of the Springfield Coal, a nationally important energy resource that underlies much of Illinois and two neighboring states and has been heavily mined for decades.

Pushed downward over the ages by the crushing weight of rock layers higher up, the Springfield forest lies at varying depths, 250 to 800 feet underground. The researchers have only sampled it so far, in the vicinity of Galatia, Illinois, but they think it extends more than 100 miles in one direction; its width has not been ascertained. An earlier discovery by the same team, the Herrin Coal forest farther north in Illinois, is just two miles long.

“Effectively you’ve got a lost world,” said Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, who has explored the site. “It’s the closest thing you’ll find to time travel,” he added.

ILB: The graphic with the story shows that "large fossilized forest buried along with an ancient river" continues into SW Indiana - Princeton, Oakland City, etc.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Environment

Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012 - Justice Massa formal swearing-in to be Monday, May 7th

From a news release:

Mark Massa will be sworn-in as Indiana’s 107th Justice on May 7th in Indianapolis. Acting Chief Justice Brent E. Dickson announced the date and invited the public to watch a live webcast of the ceremony at courts.in.gov.

Monday, May 7th
2:00 p.m. EDT
Supreme Court Courtroom
State House, 3rd Floor

The one-hour ceremony will include remarks from Governor Mitch Daniels, former gubernatorial advisor Mark Lubbers and former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman. Governor Daniels named Mr. Massa to succeed Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, who retired in March.

[UPDATE: BTW, in Upcoming Oral Arguments this week, I note that the oral argument this Thursday in Plank will be Justice Massa's first appearance on bench.

Actually, J. Massa's first appearance was in the oral argument held at Martin University on April 20th, as I noted at the time. Unfortunately, that oral argument was not recorded and so has been lost to history.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012

Ind. courts - Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson and possible serial murder case [Corrected]

Tara Schmelz of the New Albany News & Tribune reported last Friday that a third body had been found "in the backyard of a New Albany man recently charged in two murders." More:

William Clyde Gibson, 54, was charged in Floyd County on Tuesday with the week-old death of 75-year-old family friend Christine Whitis and the 2002 death of Karen Hodella, 45, of Jeffersonville.

Detectives began searching Gibson’s backyard around 2 p.m. Friday. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson confirmed officials had found human remains buried in the backyard of Gibson’s home on Woodbourne Drive near University Woods apartments.

Henderson said the remains appear to be that of “at least one individual” but wouldn’t speculate on the possibility of more victims. He said the remains appear to be weeks to months old — at the most.

When asked if Gibson could be a serial killer, Henderson said people need to be careful before using labels.

“The fact is it is a serious matter. We do have three individuals at this point,” Henderson said. Henderson said he could not speculate how the third victim died but hopes to release the victim’s identity Saturday.

Today Harold J. Adams of the Louisville Courier Journal has a nationally syndicated story headed "Floyd prosecutor: It's too soon to accuse New Albany man of being a serial killer." Some quotes:
The Floyd County (Ind.) prosecutor’s office is not ready to accuse William Clyde Gibson of being a serial killer — although the fact that he is already charged with two unrelated murders fits the definition, prosecutor Keith Henderson said.

Henderson also said he was not ready yet to charge Gibson in connection with a third body that was found Friday night buried in his backyard on Woodbourne Drive in New Albany. * * *

Henderson said he asked a Floyd County judge to seal the recording of last week’s hearing in which Gibson was charged with the two murders to protect the ongoing investigation.

The prosecutor was asked whether that meant investigators are looking into the possibility that Gibson may have killed more women. “To the extent that there is information that could lead to eventually other crimes being charged or ... other victims, it’s important that the integrity of the investigation ... stay intact,” he answered. * * *

On Thursday, Floyd Superior Court Judge Susan Orth immediately granted Henderson’s request to seal the recording of the probable-cause proceeding that led to the charges in Whitis’ and Hodella’s murders.

In the hearing — which took the place of a written affidavit that ordinarily accompanies criminal charges in Indiana — Henderson presented Orth with facts supporting the charges. The court audio recording of such a hearing is required to be available to the public just as if it were a paper affidavit.

Orth told a Courier-Journal reporter through a member of her staff last Wednesday, the day before the prosecutor’s request, that she would make the recording available Friday.

Instead, she ordered the next day that the recording be sealed for at least 30 days. “Afterwards the court shall re-examine the issue and determine the necessity of maintaining the confidentiality of said hearing,” Orth’s order says. [Emphasis added by ILB]

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson was the prosecutor in the first two David Camm trials.

[Corrected at 10:30 AM] From a reliable source: "Henderson was actually only the prosecutor in the second trial. Former Floyd County Prosecuting Attorney Stan Faith was the prosecutor in the first trial."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts

Courts - Top female advocates before the SCOTUS

Daily Writ has a post with a table compiling:

... a list of the top 10 female advocates with the most appearances before the Supreme Court who are currently in practice.
The post notes that "Many of the advocates listed above argued the vast majority of their cases as members of the Office of the Solicitor General."

It would be interesting to see a similar table prepared for Indiana. Several women advocates in the Attorney General's office, including Cindy Ploughe, Ellen Meilaender and Monika Talbot, have been there for a number of years.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Courts in general

Law - "Should Law Schools Teach Students Legal Research Process or Products?"

Interesting discussion at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to General Law Related

Ind. Courts - Still more on: Long-time Indiana Super Lawyer allegedly misappropriated more than $2.5 million in client funds for his own use

Updating these ILB entries (here and here) from Friday, April 27th, the Indianapolis Star today has a brief story by William J. Booher, headed "Indianapolis attorney accused of defrauding clients of $2.5M."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts