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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues two, including one re immediate reporting of child abuse

In Christopher Smith v. State of Indiana, a 41-page, 3-2 decision re timely reporting of child abuse, Justice David writes:

The Indiana Code requires certain school officials to immediately report instances of suspected child abuse occurring within their institutions to the Department of Child Services or law enforcement. Here, a high school principal was convicted for failing to comply with this requirement after a student at his school told him she had been raped by a fellow student, and he did not notify the police or the Department of Child Services for four hours. We affirm. * * *

In sum, it appears from the record as though when time was of the essence, Smith dawdled, delayed, and did seemingly everything he could to not contact DCS or the police. It is therefore a reasonable inference to draw, from this evidence, that Smith knowingly failed to “immediately” report the child abuse as he was obligated to do by statute.

Conclusion. It is apparent that Christopher Smith failed in his duty to help protect one of his trusted charges. Whether this failure was out of ignorance, a desire to protect the reputation of the perpetrator, or perhaps a wish to keep his school from receiving negative publicity on his watch is not clear. But none of those possible reasons are excuses under the Indiana Code’s statutory provisions compelling him to report instances of child abuse or neglect or face criminal liability. We therefore affirm Smith’s conviction and sentence.

Massa and Rush, JJ., concur.
Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Dickson, C.J., concurs. [which begins at p. 38] What apparently began as an investigation for obstruction of justice morphed at some point into a charge and eventual conviction for failure to report child abuse. Reasoning that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the conviction the majority affirms the conviction. For reasons expressed below I cannot join the majority on this point and thus respectfully dissent. In all other respects I concur in result.

ILB: Here is a long list of earlier ILB entries re Christopher Smith and the obligation to report child abuse.

In Front Row Motors, LLC and Jerramy Johnson v. Scott Jones, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

A car dealership appeals the denial of its motion to set aside default judgment. We conclude the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the dealership at the time the default was entered and therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment. * * *

On the record before us Front Row Motors has made a prima facie showing that Jones’ service of process was a mere gesture not calculated to inform it of the default damages hearing. Because Front Row Motors did not receive notice of the hearing, the default judgment entered against it was void for want of jurisdiction. The trial court thus abused its discretion in denying Front Row Motor’s motion to set aside the judgment. * * *

Indiana Code section 23-1-24-4 provides in relevant part: “A corporation’s registered agent is the corporation’s agent for service of process, notice, or demand required or permitted by law to be served on the corporation.” I.C. § 23-1-24-4(a). The record shows that at all relevant times during the pendency of this action Jerramy Johnson was the registered agent for Front Row Motors, LLC. Indeed Jones served Johnson in that capacity at the address listed with the Secretary State, namely Johnson’s home address. But Jones knew that Johnson was not present at that address and instead was a resident of a Community Corrections facility. Despite this knowledge Jones made no effort to serve Johnson—the registered agent of Front Row Motors—at the facility. * * *

Conclusion. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this cause for further proceedings.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 27, 2014 10:34 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions