At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., one of many aspects about Indiana law we can relay with pride to our clients, along with members of the public, bench and bar in other states, is Indiana has one of the most efficient intermediate courts, the Indiana Court of Appeals, in the United States. And, correspondingly, the highest Court, the Indiana Supreme Court is known throughout the Country for key decisions on important issues of the day.
An inherent component in the successes of Indiana’s higher Courts is their uniformity, stability and continuity. This bolsters the law by making it most evenly applied throughout the State (and a model for other states). This is key because individuals to businesses make the best decisions when this is the case–the law is stable and the courts are open to protect rights and justly and timely resolve disputes. Each can rely on this and (want to) start a family or business with this in mind.
However, all things, even law, including Indiana’s appellate courts, must change at times. Indiana’s Appellate Courts are at an important crossroads now that will impact every person who now lives in Indiana or who might in the future in untold ways. What is going on? Big changes in both Courts! This is the purpose of this blog post–to help readers make sense of these changes and thus be an educated citizen and more effective legal consumer.
The current Indiana Supreme Court has a special place in legal history, with the longest serving chief justice, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, whose legal scholarship has guided the Court since his appointment as the Chief Justice in 1987. Indeed, the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinions are recognized across the Country as leading in development of the law and keeping it current with the social, technological and political needs of the times.
On December 7, 2011, however, Chief Justice Shepard announced his retirement. Vacancies on the Indiana Supreme Court are filled by the Governor from the narrow and screened list provided by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission. Generally, this coincides with a justice retiring or leaving the bench. This spaced-out-one-at-a-time replacement process works well and keeps an even keel in the Indiana Supreme Court.
What is unique is the replacement of two (2) justices in a little over one year. In September, 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels appointed Judge Steven David to the Indiana Supreme Court to replace the retiring Justice Theodore Boehm, in what some viewed as replacement of a judicial activist with true judicial conservative.
Justice David, in his short tenure on the bench, made his legal mark and generated intense public debate with the decision he authored about the common-law right to resist unlawful law enforcement entry into one’s home. What is also unusual in this mix is with the Governor’s input, the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission will pick the new Chief Justice. In unique and unforeseeable timing, the Indiana Supreme Court will have two new justices, and one of the five members of the Indiana Supreme Court will be the new Chief Justice.
While it is unlikely these two appointments will have any immediate impact on the state of Indiana’s body of caselaw, this new composition could take Indiana to a new focus on cases the Indiana Supreme Court takes, such as those focused on technology and privacy, “hot-button” issues of our time, or a innumerable number of other shifts or courses.
No doubt, however, Indiana will continue its legacy of leading judicial opinions and be a legal beacon (by the cases it decides) for other states as we move into the new millennium.
The Court of Appeals
Like the Indiana Supreme Court, the Indiana Court of Appeals is also remarkable. On average for 2010, their cases were decided in one month, reinforcing the Mission of the Indiana Court of Appeals: “To Serve All People by Providing Equal Justice Under the Law.” In some other jurisdictions, cases drag on in the appellate courts for months or longer.
To make taking an appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals more streamlined, the foundational key to an appeal, the praecipe for appeal filed in the trial court changed several years ago to a notice of appeal. The Notice of Appeal contained more information and specifics for the persons in local courts to prepare the record, and was served upon the Court of Appeals so it had notice of cases potentially in its legal pipeline for decision.
In addition, an Appellant’s Case Summary (filed a little after the Notice of Appeal in most cases) was also implemented and required to be filed in the Court of Appeals. This document provided the Court of Appeals with a vast amount of information about the appeal coming to it, a document very similar to the uniform and detailed appearance form implemented for use in trial courts several years ago.
Effective January 1, 2012, the Notice Appeal must contain more than instructions for the local clerk (who assembles the filings) and court reporter (who prepares the evidence, the transcript and documentary evidence) and consolidates the Notice of Appeal and Appellant’s Case Summary (which is abolished) , containing the following information:
- Party Information.
- Trial Information.
- Designation of Appealed Order of Judgment.
- Direction for Assembly of Clerk’s Record.
- Request for Transcript.
- Public Access Information.
- Appellate Alternative Dispute Resolution Information.
- Certain Attachments.
- Certification (about what the case involves or does not).
- Certificate of Filing and Service.
While this is logical and eliminates paper by consolidation, it is critically different in that this is filed with the Clerk of the Indiana Court of Appeals. It is not filed with the trial court. This is a fundamental structural change in how an appeal is perfected in Indiana. If this is not timely filed with the Clerk of the Indiana Court of Appeals–not the trial court–it is untimely.
The Court of Appeals has indicated a grace period will apply since this is such a dramatic change. However, whether you are an attorney or client, appeals are precise and rule-dominate process and each of us should strive to make the first appellate filing under these new rules accurate and compliant.
Clearly, change is at hand in the Indiana Court of Appeals in how the very right to appeal is perfected. This is perhaps just as important as the new makeup of the Indiana Supreme Court with two new Justices and a new Chief Justice. As appellate advocates, we encourage you to be engaged in all aspects of government including these important changes in Indiana’s Appellate Courts.
This is the hallmark of a good and engaged citizen. And it is the very foundation upon which we ensure the freedoms and rule of law we live by today is developed and continues in the future as our society changes. Change is always hard. But change is the only constant. Be engaged.
The blog is written by Bryan L. Ciyou of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle all types of criminal and civil appeals from counties throughout Indiana, as may be brought to the Indiana Court of Appeals or Indiana Supreme Court.