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Friday, July 27, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Three more Supreme Court opinions posted, dated yesterday, July 26th

In Indiana Dept. of Revenue v. Miller Brewing Co., a 9-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

This appeal is the latest iteration of a decade-long dispute between the Miller Brewing Company and the Indiana Department of Revenue over Miller’s Indiana adjusted gross income tax liability. The Department here appeals the Tax Court’s determination that Miller owes no tax on certain sales to Indiana customers. We reverse. * * *

The Tax Court determined that Example 7 was an administrative rule with the force of law and that it operated to exempt Miller from liability for Indiana tax on income from sales of goods delivered by common carrier to Indiana customers. We find that this determination was clearly erroneous and hold that Example 7 does not have the force of law. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Tax Court.

Dickson, C.J., Sullivan, and David, JJ., concur.
Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion. [which concludes] “When a summary judgment involves a question of law within the particular purview of the Tax Court, cautious deference is appropriate.” Ind. Dep’t of State Revenue v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 639 N.E.2d 264, 266 (Ind. 1994). This Court will set aside the Tax Court’s determinations of tax law on summary judgment only if it is definitely and firmly convinced that an error was made. Id. I am not convinced an error was made here. Applying our cautious deference standard of review I would affirm the judgment of the Tax Court. Therefore I respectfully dissent.

In Douglas Cottingham v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Douglas Cottingham was placed on home detention under the supervision of a community-corrections program before a 2010 amendment to Indiana Code section 35-38-2.6-6 took effect. He argues that he is entitled to “good time credit” for his time served on home detention pursuant to that statutory amendment. We conclude that the statutory amendment does not apply to him. * * *

As an initial matter, we note that there is a conflict in the Court of Appeals concerning this issue, cf. Brown v. State, 947 N.E.2d 486 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011) (holding that amended statute does not apply retroactively), trans. denied,1 and because of this conflict, we too refrain from disposing of this issue on the basis of waiver, see Cottingham, 952 N.E.2d at 248 (addressing this issue despite waiver).

This appeal and others have stemmed from the Legislature’s 2010 amendment to the Indiana Code section concerning good-time-credit eligibility for persons placed on home detention in community-corrections programs. * * *

Based on the language of this statute, we hold that the amendment to Indiana Code sec-tion 35-38-2.6-6 applies to those who are placed on home detention on or after its effective date. Cottingham was placed on home detention before the statute’s effective date and so he is not eli-gible for good time credit.

Suppose, however, an offender committed an offense before the statute’s effective date and was placed on home detention but not until after the statute’s effective date. This offender is eligible for good time credit under the rule announced in this case. Accord Arthur v. State, 950 N.E.2d 343, 346 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011) (concluding that offender placed on home detention on July 30, 2010, after trial court modified commitment from work release to home detention was entitled to earn good time credit), trans. denied. In this respect, the “is placed” rule announced in this case operates as an exception to the general rule that the credit time statutes applicable in respect of an offense are those in force on the date the offense was committed. Purcell, 721 N.E.2d at 222 n.2.

The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

In Robert Smith v. State of Indiana, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Robert Smith was placed on home detention under the supervision of a community-corrections program in January, 2010. He argues that the introduction of certain hearsay evi-dence at the hearing revoking his community-corrections placement violated his due process right to confrontation. Because we conclude that the hearsay evidence introduced at the hearing was substantially trustworthy, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. * * *

The trial court held a bifurcated hearing on the alleged violations on June 10 and June 24, 2010. During these hearings, the State of-fered into evidence State’s Exhibit 1,1 which consisted of five lab reports showing that Smith had tested positive for cocaine and marijuana on five separate occasions and an affidavit from Megan R. Jones, who was the supervisor at the lab that performed Smith’s drug tests, attesting to the positive results of those tests. Smith objected to the admission of State’s Exhibit 1 on the grounds that it denied him his due process right to confrontation and that it was not reliable be-cause it spoke only to the general lab procedures and not to the specific test results in this case. * * *

We therefore reject Smith’s argument that his due process right to confrontation in revocation hearings requires confrontation as defined in Crawford.

Our inquiry does not end there, however. We must now address whether Smith’s due process right to confrontation was in fact violated by the admission of State’s Exhibit 1. In doing so, we consider whether the evidence supports the trial court’s finding that State’s Exhibit 1 was substantially trustworthy (or in the trial court’s terms, reliable). See, e.g., Reyes, 868 N.E.2d at 442 (considering whether the evidence adequately supports the finding that hearsay affidavits were substantially trustworthy). We conclude that it does. * * *

After reviewing the record, we conclude that the evidence adequately supports the trial courts findings that State’s Exhibit 1 is substantially trustworthy. Cf. Reyes, 868 N.E.2d at 442 (affidavits found to be substantially reliable when the affiant was director of lab, was familiar with procedures employed to ensure chain of custody and validity of testing, and had reviewed records with regard to drug test at issue). Thus, Smith’s due process right to confrontation was not violated by the admission of this exhibit.

We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 27, 2012 10:33 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions