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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ind. Courts - Recap of yesterday's Supreme Court oral argument at Purdue

Steven Porter has the story today in the Lafayette Journal Courier. Some quotes:

[The Supreme Court] justices set up shop at Purdue University to give people in the region a glimpse of what a hearing of the state’s highest court is all about. More than 500 people attended the proceedings at Loeb Playhouse.

Among those taking it all in were high school and college students who heard from the justices about how they keep public opinion and partisan politics from affecting the court’s rulings.

Justice Brent Dickson said he and his colleagues must ensure outside pressures don’t obscure their view of the specific legal questions at hand and the applicable rules, as codified by the Indiana General Assembly.

“Public opinion changes all the time,” he said. “The law does not.”

The governor and legislature can change laws in response to shifting public opinion, but that’s not the Supreme Court’s role, Dickson clarified.

“We don’t hold a finger up to the wind and see which way the wind is blowing,” he quipped.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush, who spent 14 years as a judge in Tippecanoe County before her appointment to the high court, told attendees that justices must set aside their personal beliefs and weigh cases strictly on their legal merits.

Justice Robert Rucker illustrated that point with a story about former Chief Justice Richard Givan who opposed the death penalty on religious grounds but, in his judicial capacity, penned majority opinions that upheld the legality of several death sentences. * * *

[T]he justices declined to answer any questions about the oral arguments that had just taken place — part of actual proceedings in a case.

At issue in the case is whether Catholic Charities was negligent in its handling of a foiled adoption attempt it facilitated in 2010. [ILB: oral argument available here]

Jason and Justina Kramer, the would-be adoptive parents, sued the agency after the biological father of a newborn already living in their home established paternity of the child and successfully halted the adoption process.

The Kramers allege that they suffered harm because Catholic Charities failed to discover the father’s claim to paternity. A trial court ruled for the charity, but an appellate court reversed the decision and found the agency negligent.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments Monday, but that doesn’t mean the court will actually take up the case. The justices could vote to let the lower appellate court’s ruling stand, or they could set a date to hear detailed arguments on the matter.

Justice Mark Massa said the court declines to hear about 90 percent of the cases sent its way annually, deferring to the lower courts’ rulings.

Later yesterday, the justices watched the unveiling of a historic marker honoring a women's suffrage trailblazer and Tippecanoe County's first female lawyer, Helen Gougar.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 11, 2014 09:24 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts