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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Second Supreme Court opinion today

In Joseph D. Hardiman and Jaketa L. Patterson, as Co-Administrators of the Estate of Britney R. Meux, Deceased v. Jason R. Cozmanoff, a 12-page opinion, Justice Massa writes:

“Inevitably, in civil cases where related criminal charges are involved, tension will arise between plaintiffs’ rights to a just and timely adjudication and defendants’ rights to refuse to answer under the Fifth Amendment upon a reasonable fear of prosecution.” Nat’l Acceptance Co. of Am. v. Bathalter, 705 F.2d 924, 932 (7th Cir. 1983) (internal citation omitted). The case we address today involves just this sort of tension; the civil trial court granted a limited stay of discovery against the defendant, but ordered him to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. Both sides appealed, and we now affirm the trial court in all respects. * * *

After making its decision, the trial court acknowledged the stay was not a perfect solution: “I’m not at all satisfied with this ruling. But I think it’s the best I can do right now.” Appellee’s App. at 34. In light of all the circumstances we have discussed above, we cannot disagree. Our ruling today does not mean the trial court was constitutionally required to impose the stay;7 simply that it did not abuse its discretion by so doing. Indeed, were we to hold otherwise, it would be hard to imagine a set of circumstances in which it would be an appropriate exercise of a trial court’s discretion to order a stay for a defendant in Cozmanoff’s position.

We therefore affirm the trial court and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 12, 2014 04:59 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions