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Indiana Supreme Court: Court Addresses Timeframe To Enter Injunction Orders, Workers' Compensation Act, Criminal Sentencing
Posted in Litigation

The Indiana Supreme Court issued four opinions in February 2010, two of which addressed related issues.

In State ex rel. Crain Heating Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, Inc., in a per curiam opinion, the Court further expanded upon a permanent writ of mandamus and prohibition it had entered in favor of the relator on December 7, 2009, to clarify the procedure “that may be used to withdraw a case from a court that fails to rule promptly after hearing a motion related to a preliminary injunction.” 

The Court addressed the interplay between Trial Rule 53.1, which permits a case to be withdrawn from a court if it fails to rule on a motion within 30 days after it is heard and Rule 65(A)(3), which sets forth a shorter, 10-day period of time for entry of an order following the hearing for a temporary or preliminary injunction.  The Court determined that these two “rules should be interpreted in conjunction with each other to mean that unless an order is entered within ten days after the hearing upon the granting, modifying, or dissolving of a temporary or permanent injunction, there has been a delay in ruling and an interested party may immediately praecipe for withdrawal under the procedure provided in Trial Rule 53.1(E).”  It is not necessary to wait the longer, 30-day period.

The Indiana Supreme Court further observed that while receiving proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from the parties may be convenient, it “is not necessary to the court’s decision making.”  The “parties’ submission of proposed findings pursuant to an order allowing such submission [after the 10-day period provided in the rule] does not relieve the court of the obligation to rule timely,” if the parties have not stipulated on the record for a longer period for ruling.  In addition, the Court looked not to the day the praecipe was filed, but the date on which the clerk issued a determination.  Though the praecipe in this case technically was premature when filed, because the clerk made its determination later, at a time when there clearly was a delay by the trial court, the writ of mandamus and prohibition was appropriate.

In Washington Township Fire Department v. Beltway Surgery Center, the Court affirmed and adopted the Indiana Court of Appeals’ opinion holding “the employer, not the medical provider, has the burden of proving whether the charges for medical services provided to an employee exceed the employer’s liability to pay under the Worker’s Compensation Act.”  The Worker’s Compensation Board “may require an employer that fails to meet this burden to pay the medical provider’s full bill.”

The Indiana Supreme Court also entered two related, unanimous opinions to address the meaning and application of statutory provisions precluding penalty enhancement that ordinarily results from drug offenses committed close to places like parks and schools where children frequent. 

In Griffin v. State, the Court addressed whether the defendant’s sentence for possession of cocaine should have been enhanced as a result of him being stopped while pushing a moped down the middle of a street near an elementary school at 2:15 in the morning.  The Court observed that for a defense to the enhancement to apply, both conditions of the absence of children and “briefly” must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.  The only evidence offered regarding the presence of children came from the police officer who testified there probably were families nearby in the residential area.  The Court found that the State failed to rebut the absence-of-children prong of the statutory defense because there “was no evidence as to the location of the residential homes along the street so as to place them, or any inferred child occupants, within 1,000 feet of the school.” 

As for the “briefly” prong, the Court found that the General Assembly’s use of “briefly” “implies that such duration must be determined in relation to other considerations, not merely an abstract, temporal component.”  It defined “briefly” to mean “a period of time no longer than reasonably necessary for a defendant’s intrusion into the proscribed zone principally for conduct unrelated to unlawful drug activities, provided the defendant’s activities related to the charged offense are not visible.”  Griffin’s class B felony conviction was reversed and the case remanded with instructions for entry of a conviction for a class D felony, with the appropriate resentencing.

In the related case, Gallagher v. State, the defendant had been convicted of Dealing in a Schedule II Controlled Substance Within One Thousand Feet of School Property, a class A felony. Citing the “briefly” definition it handed down in Griffin, the Court found that though the defendant was located in the proscribed zone for less than fourteen minutes, during those minutes “the defendant was principally engaged in conduct related to unlawful drug activities clearly visible to anyone present, and thus his thirteen and one half minutes in the proscribed zone does not quality as ‘briefly.’”  The Court upheld the Gallagher’s conviction.

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