We have all heard on television or from an unsatisfied litigant they will take their case to the Supreme Court. In reality, most cases have a right to be appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals (COA). The Indiana Supreme Court (ISC) must accept most cases by a litigant timely filing a Petition to Transfer after the COA decides the case. The Indiana Supreme Court then decides which cases it will take and denies transfer to the remaining cases (it does not hear them). Fortunately, the ISC has published guidance on the types of cases it typically takes (it can take any case it chooses, however). This blog explores the types of case the ISC rules anticipate are favored for transfer.1
Conflict in the Court of Appeals Decisions. Under the way case law is developed in Indiana, the three-judge panels in the COA are, sometimes, able to decide a case that is different from another case it decided or that is ambiguous. If there is enough conflicting case law where a party may rely on one case and receive a different result than another case in the COA’s decisional law, the ISC may consider this as a basis for transfer with important questions of law.
Conflict with Supreme Court Decision. In the rare case where a COA decision leaves a question about whether it conflicts with the ISC’s decisional law, the ISC may grant transfer to clarify the issue. The ISC’s decisions are binding on the COA, but with the myriads of different situations that occur in litigation, the ISC can grant transfer to clarify the law when and if a COA decision my leave open questions as to the status of the law.
Undecided Question of Law. There are thousands of statutes and administrative rules on the books in Indiana, along with the cases applying these statutes and administrative rules. Sometimes, a new question of law and how it is applied may come up in a trial court case and on appeal. Since these are important questions for the citizenry, litigants, and trial courts so that they can comply with the law and know the law, these are the types of cases the ISC may take. Everyone is supposed to follow the law, so this function of the ISC helps bring uniform and equal application to the law when it decides a case on this basis.
Conflict with Federal Appellate Decisions. Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, Federal law trumps State law in most cases. In the case where there is an actual or apparent conflict with Indiana law and Federal law, the ISC may take the case to decide the issue so there is the proper balance of power between the state and the federal government.
Significant Departure from Law or Practice. In cases where a decision of a COA (or Tax Court) significantly departs from other cases or statutes and/or law or ways law is practiced, the ISC may again grant transfer to settle the law for the benefit of those under the laws of Indiana. Attorneys who advise clients need to have stable and predictable law and this consideration aims to ensure just that happens.
Is this your case? While these are the major considerations for the ISC in considering a transfer, it can take any case it wishes for any reason. Thus, all litigants have the right to ask the ISC to accept the transfer on their case. And the ISC takes a wide array of cases that develop or change the law in cases ranging from tax issues to family law. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals of all types throughout the State. This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.