Probably not, at least right away. Ultimately, yes. Much of what lawyers and clients do in the legal system is far removed from the courtroom. However, where litigation is involved, the stakes are often high—in terms of loss of freedom, money/property or children. This type of litigation is a client’s life. A court loss is traumatic and sometimes leads to an appeal. All appeals are important but sometimes litigants just want “to go to the supreme court”. This blog covers few cases that automatically go to the Indiana Supreme Court versus the Court of Appeals and covers how a case that first starts in the Court of Appeals may wind up in the Indiana Supreme Court or United States Supreme Court.
Generally, most readers would only have their case or a loved one’s proceed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court in one of two ways. The first is obvious because of the loss of life or freedom. In cases where a judge or jury imposes a death sentence or life without parole and in appeals for post-conviction relief in which the sentence was death, the Indiana Supreme Court has mandatory and exclusive jurisdiction. This means the case does not go to the Court of Appeals first. The risk of loss of life or freedom for life goes straight to the five justices of the Supreme Court as a serious protection of your ultimate liberty interest.
Perhaps more common is a by-product of the hundreds of new laws that are passed by the Legislature each year. Sometimes even well-intentioned laws do not follow constitutional limitations and impinge on your freedoms. In this case, a trial court may declare a state or federal statute unconstitutional in whole or in part. Since constitutional rights are at stake as well as a delicate separation of powers (judicial and legislative) these adjudications go directly to the Indiana Supreme Court. This too protects our freedoms and are of such significance they do not first go to appeal in the Indiana Court of Appeals.1
Lastly, the Indiana Supreme Court has the ultimate protection for every litigant in state court to avoid a trial court judge acting beyond his or her authority. In rare occasions, a litigant may effectively “sue” a judge or court by bringing an original action in the Indiana Supreme Court to seek an order to stop or mandate an Indiana trial court or judge act or not act in a given situation. These original actions are very rare and disfavored because they effectively navigate around the trial court and appellate process. Nevertheless, this provision exists to provide litigants with protection and direct access to the Indiana Supreme Court in rare—but the right situations.
In all other cases where there are final appealable orders or certain interlocutory orders, the case proceeds first to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Ultimately, every litigant has the right to seek the Indiana Supreme Court to grant transfer and have it then reconsider the Court of Appeals’ decision. This is a discretionary call by the Indiana Supreme Court and is not an appeal as a matter of right. Notwithstanding, a party who has the Indiana Supreme Court decide their case and loses or is denied transfer has a right to seek Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.
Thus, while you may not be able to take your case directly to the Indiana Supreme Court, you have the right to seek it to hear your case as well as the United State Supreme Court if the proper rules and time deadlines are followed. These are strict and rigid, so if you plan to appeal, you should obtain appellate counsel at once. This blog was written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates who handle appeals of all types. It is written as general educational material. Hopefully, it helps you understand some of your legal rights in Indiana. This blog is not written as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.