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Monday, April 10, 2017

Law - Pulitzer for editorial writing goes to editor of rural Iowa 3,000 circulation paper

Art Cullen of The Storm Lake Times, Storm Lake, IA, "co-owner with his older brother John of The Storm Lake Times, a 3,000-ciculation twice-weekly newspaper in Storm Lake, Iowa, pop. 10,000, in rural Northwest Iowa," was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer in Editorial Writing today:

For editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.
Here is a Pultizer page with a list (with links) of the 10 winning editorials. I've only read one so far, and I've become a fan. It is called "Unveiling the hidden truth", from March 3, 2016. A few quotes:
We are proud to stand with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council in seeking the release of public records from Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties that would tell us how the counties are financing their defense of a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works over nitrate pollution of the Raccoon River. Regardless of your opinion about the merits of the water works’ lawsuit, the public deserves to know who is paying law firms in Des Moines and Washington, DC, and under what terms. * * *

Finally, we got the beginnings of an answer. Credit Buena Vista County Supervisor Paul Merten, D-Storm Lake, for telling us the nubbin of the truth: that there is a gigantic account funded by Farm Bureau and virtually every commodity group (corn growers, pork producers, soybean association, etc.) presumably using checkoff funds.

That’s fine, so far as it goes. That is all we are truly asking: How much is the bill and who is paying it? * * *

Ultimately, we believe, those bills are a BV County liability, not just of the drainage districts.

It is good to know for a few reasons.

First, you always follow the paymaster. If Farm Bureau is signing the check, then you know who is really calling the shots on our behalf. We elected a board of supervisors and a county attorney to direct the policies and protectthe taxpayers ofthis county. We did not elect the Farm Bureau or any other interest group to set our course.

Second, you always have friends when you are winning. Not so much when you are losing. We don’t know what the terms are among the slush fund donor(s), the boards of supervisors and the attorneys. But it could be open-ended. If, say,the counties lose during a side appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, the agribusiness donors may decide to take their bets off the BV nag. Then we are left holding the bag for the rest of the federal trial. That certainly can happen.

Third, the public deserves to know all it can about how this defense is shaped since we believe the county, and its drainage districts, could be on the hook for more than $100 million in damages or, at least, could be subject to violations under the Clean Water Act. This is of the gravest importance. The public deserves to know how its property might be leveraged by the lawsuit, and the contributions to the legal defense add context and could color the outcome.

Fourth, Iowa law requires disclosure of this information. It is illegal to hide it as the supervisors are. There is no question that the information is being hidden. We have asked repeatedly. We do not know why this elaborate secret is being kept. If agribusiness concerns are paying the bills to protect their way of doing business, and the supervisors believe that voters agree and endorse the idea, then there is no reason to keep the truth under wraps.

Seldom have we been stonewalled like this. Obviously, the legal arrangements among the counties and the law firms are complex by design to shield the truth. It will not be easy to penetrate.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to General Law Related

Ind. Gov't. - A thought on: "Should you have to pay $20 an hour for a public records search?"

As the ILB wrote earlier:

There is no evidence, other than anecdotal, that a bill like this is needed to prevent perceived abuses by the public of their right to access governmental records.

Perhaps there should be some sort of research done before a law like this is enacted, such as requiring governmental officials to track the time it takes them now to fill public records requests. This might reveal where governmental processes currently are operating inefficiently, bottlenecks, duplication, etc.

Alternatively, the proposal should include a way for the public to challenge the amount assessed for a public records request. Under this bill there is no requirement, or indeed, any encouragement for a public official to fill a records request in the most efficient way possible.

It strikes me that digging into the perceived need for this bill, gathering any evidence, would be a great project for a group of young journalism students ...

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - Still more on "Should you have to pay $20 an hour for a public records search?"

Updating this ILB post from Feb. 27th, and this one from Feb. 20th, the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists posted April 3rd:

The Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists calls upon state lawmakers to reject HB 1523, a bill that would let state and local government agencies charge up to $20 per hour to fulfill requests for public records that take more than two hours to find.

This legislation goes against the idea that government is supposed to serve the people, would undermine government transparency and could easily be abused to hide public records from the public view.

It is not hard to imagine local governments exploiting such a law to make it cost-prohibitive for journalists and concerned citizens to find out what their elected representatives are doing, and how their tax dollars are being put to use. Some citizens may not be able to afford such search fees and could be denied access to government records that are supposed to be available to all.

Government employees could deliberately drag their feet on such requests, racking up exorbitant charges to produce records the taxpaying public already paid for in the first place, either to shut down requests or deter them in the future.

If anything, the state legislature should be working to make public records more accessible, and available to anyone online. Local officials should not be given the tool of search fees to hide documents that belong to the public and should be open to the scrutiny of all taxpayers and voters.

The bill defeats the entire purpose of Indiana’s public access laws, and should be defeated. It has the potential to be an obstacle to the reporting of a free press and an impediment to finding out the truth that could shroud government doings in secrecy. This legislation is simply not in keeping with the values of Hoosiers or an open, democratic society.

If government agencies are actually struggling with the burden of providing the public with public records, it should be addressed in another way — perhaps by automatically publishing everything on the government agency’s website so journalists and citizens can execute such searches themselves, freeing up government workers for whatever other tasks.
Ironically, as reported in the SB Tribune editorial:
The Hoosier State Press Association, which traditionally advocates for open records, supports the bill, emphasizing the importance of the electronic records provision. This will be beneficial as “more and more records are collected electronically,” said HSPA Executive Director Steve Key.
Clearly, the IHSPA and the public's interests diverge here. The IHSPA also appears to be at odds with the Society of Professional Journalists...

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - "Student journalist protections die in Indiana Senate"

Dakota Connell-Ledwon of the South Bend Tribune reported Sunday in a story that begins:

A bill meant to protect student journalists’ First Amendment rights died in the Indiana Senate on Friday.

Rep. Edward Clere, author of House Bill 1130, intended the bill to roll back the restrictions imposed by the 1988 Hazelwood Supreme Court decision.

The Hazelwood decision created a precedent that allows school administrators to censor public high school and college publications almost at will.

Clere grew up in Floyd County and attended Floyd Central High School, where he was a student journalist himself. The issue hits particularly close to home for him — his 15-year-old daughter is an assistant news editor at the same school newspaper where he first ventured into journalism.

“Student journalists play a vital role in a school setting in the same way that professional journalists play a vital role in a community at the state or national level,” Clere said. “They foster accountability and transparency, they carry on important conversations, they bring issues and interest to light, and beyond all that, student journalism is a hands-on civics lesson for the entire school community.”

Hazelwood had created a fuzzy standard for where administrators could step in and censor material,” said Stephen Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association.

He noted that House Bill 1130 wouldn’t have given students the freedom to write just anything and everything.

School administrations "will still have power, but they won’t be able to step in just because they think the story puts them in an unfavorable light or touches on a sensitive topic,” he said. “The administration can still step in if they review the publication and it’s inciting someone to break the law, or if it’s obscene or libelous.”

And as the ILB wrote April 7th, the Kansas story ("These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned.") apparently played a role. Again from the SB Tribune story:
[Rep. Edward Clere, author of House Bill 1130] claims McCormick misinterpreted a recent instance of student journalism to frighten lawmakers into opposing the bill. While speaking against the bill on Friday, she brought up a group of high school journalists in Kansas whose research uncovered problems with the credentials of their newly hired principal. The principal resigned a few days later.

According to Clere, McCormick used this story as evidence that the bill would result in student journalists getting principals fired.

“We’re going to have to go back to a lot of senators, help them understand that they have been misled and provide them with correct information and the facts which support this legislation,” Clere said. “There’s nothing here for anybody to be scared of.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, a reversal

In Thom Howell v. Shawn Smith (ND Ind., Moody), a 14-page opinion, Judge Ripple writes:

On May 15, 2011, Officer Shawn Smith of the Highland, Indiana Police Department received a call from his dispatcher, alerting him to a road rage incident involving the discharge of a firearm. He later came upon a car matching the description and conducted a “high‐risk traffic stop.” Officer Smith placed Mr. Howell, the occupant of the car, in handcuffs and detained him until other officers brought the alleged victim to the scene.2 The victim positively identified Mr. Howell and his vehicle as involved in the road rage incident. Nonetheless, the officers found no weapon and decided to release Mr. Howell. The whole episode lasted approximately thirty minutes.

Mr. Howell initially brought this action in state court, alleging that the officers’ treatment had aggravated a preexisting shoulder condition, which became worse with time and required multiple surgeries. Following the transfer of the proceedings from state to federal district court, Officer Smith moved for summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion, and Officer Smith filed this interlocutory appeal.

We respectfully disagree with the district court’s decision to deny Officer Smith’s immunity claim. In our view, Officer Smith’s decision to place Mr. Howell, then implicated in a serious crime involving the discharge of a weapon, in handcuffs and to keep him in handcuffs until satisfied that he was not a threat did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, under the doctrine of qualified immunity, the federal count in the complaint must be dismissed. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions

Ind. Decisions - Transfer list for week ending April 7, 2017

Here is the Clerk's transfer list for the week ending Friday, April 7, 2017. It is two pages (and 18 cases) long.

Four transfers were granted last week:

In addition, there was one case last week where transfer was denied by a 3-2 vote, and one case where transfer failed because of a 2-2- split:

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Transfer Lists

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 opinion(s) today (and 7 NFP memorandum decision(s))

For publication opinions today (1):

In Jacob Maciaszek v. State of Indiana, a 12-page opinion, Judge May writes:

The trial could did not err when it denied Maciaszek’s request for presentence credit for actual time served or for good time credit based on the time he spent incarcerated in Florida and New Hampshire prior to his extradition to Indiana. However, the trial court should have granted Maciaszek’s request for presentence credit for actual time served and good time credit for the time he spent in Indiana awaiting trial on the Indiana charges. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for amendment of Maciaszek’s sentencing order to reflect a proper calculation of credit time.
NFP civil decisions today (1):

Termination: BH v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem dec.)

NFP juvenile and criminal decisions today (6):

MJoseph Basford v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Andres Lara-Sangines v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Larry Craig v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Robert Micheau v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

James Matthew Caudill v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Justin Delaine Littlejohn v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions

About the ILB - The opportunity for your organization to become the ILB's exclusive sponsor is still out there ...

The ILB is still looking for a new sponsor (or group of several sponsors) to step forward to support its mission, which began in 2003, of collecting and reporting on the news that matters to lawyers, judges and citizens across Indiana. Contact me with serious inquiries.

Time is running out.

The ILB will intensively cover the Supreme Court interviews next week, as it has over past years. But other than that, blogging will be limited.

The Indianapolis law firm of Hoover Hull Turner has been the exclusive sponsor of the Indiana Law Blog since the spring of 2016. Its financial arrangement will end on April 30, 2017. HHT writes that it continues to be grateful for Marcia Oddi's tireless work in the name of public service, adding intelligent insight into coverage of new court decisions and legislative developments. And the ILB, as I know do many you, thanks HHT for its strong and generous support over the past year.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to About the Indiana Law Blog

Ind. Decisions - Upcoming oral arguments this week and next

This week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court (week of 4/10/17):

Next week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court (week of 4/17/17):

Webcasts of Supreme Court oral arguments are available here.

This week's oral arguments before the Court of Appeals (week of 4/10/17):

Tuesday, April 11

Wednesday, April 12

Next week's oral arguments before the Court of Appeals (week of 4/17/17):

Monday, April 17

Tuesday, April 18

Thursday, April 20

Friday, April 21

ONLY those Court of Appeals oral arguments presented in the Supreme or Court of Appeals Courtrooms generally will be accessible via videocast.

Past Court of Appeals oral arguments which have been webcast are accessible here.

NOTE: For a printable version of this list of upcoming oral arguments, click on the date in the next line. Then select "Print" from your browser.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Monday, April 10, 2017
Posted to Upcoming Oral Arguments