A handful of lawsuits filed in Indiana courts in 2017 already have made changes to state law. Others have sparked national conversations.
On issues such as immigration and civil forfeiture, state and federal judges in Indiana have weighed in on the civil rights of Hoosiers, but challenges remain.
More: Federal judge strikes down part of Indiana’s vehicle seizure law
Other issues such as voting rights and the police shooting of an unarmed motorist have yet to be decided.
Here are a few cases that will draw into next year and, depending on the outcome, could affect the entire state.
In May a number of civics groups sued Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the Marion County Election Board and the Marion County Election Board’s three members over early-voting access.
Common Cause Indiana, the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and the local NAACP branch said that Marion County’s single early-voting location for 900,000 residents has caused a disparate voter turnout compared with many less-populated counties that have several early-voting locations each.
The federal lawsuit says the elections board deliberately discriminates against African-American voters, who make up nearly three in 10 of Marion County’s residents, by not providing additional early-voting sites.
More: NAACP, Common Cause target early voting in Marion County
More: Republicans limiting early voting in Marion County, letting it bloom in suburbs
The groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The case is pending.
Meanwhile, a state legislator has taken action on the voting rights issue and could affect Marion County’s role in the 2018 elections.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D- Indianapolis, has filed two bills for the 2018 legislative session that address early voting in Marion County.
The bills, which would be effective July 2018 if passed into law, would repeal and replace rules governing the Marion County Election Board and make it easier to establish new early-voting sites.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, left, and Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, confer in the Senate chamber on organization day at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday, November 17, 2009. The General Assembly met briefly Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the upcoming short session starting in January 2010. (Charlie Nye / The Star). (Photo: Charlie Nye, Charlie Nye/The Star)
“We need to get the conversation started on voter access,” Taylor told IndyStar.
“This is one way to do that.”
After the shooting death of unarmed Indianapolis motorist Aaron Bailey last summer, his family brought a federal lawsuit that claimed the police used excessive force.
The estate of Aaron Bailey is suing the city of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the two officers who shot the man after a brief pursuit. The officers said they feared Bailey was reaching for a gun, though no weapon was later found.
No criminal charges were brought against the pair, but they have been suspended without pay and are facing termination.
The civil lawsuit, filed in September in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, says the shooting was “objectively and subjectively unreasonable.”
The lawsuit, filed by Bailey family attorney Craig R. Karpe, requests punitive damages and a jury trial. The case is set for a three-day jury trial in March 2019.
A federal lawsuit over immigration detainer requests could spill over into 2018 after Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill requested to intervene in a settlement between the ACLU of Indiana and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
More: Wait, Indiana attorney general says, ACLU deal with Sheriff’s Office violates state law
More: Federal judge prohibits ICE detainers in Marion County
In early December, Hill filed a motion to intervene in the settlement that would end warrantless ICE detention requests.
Hill objects to the signed settlement agreement struck a month ago between the groups to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests to hold people who are believed to be in the country illegally.
In a 36-page order handed down Nov. 7, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an injunction preventing the Sheriff’s Office from detaining any person based solely on ICE requests. The order effectively protected illegal immigrants in Indiana from potentially unlawful detention.
An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union has said his office would appeal Hill’s attempt to intervene.
“We are ready for this case to be behind us,” Gavin Rose told IndyStar.
The topic of government seizure of personal assets has piqued the nation’s interest. And Marion County is no different.
Last November, Jeff Cardella, an adjunct professor at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of Leroy Washington, whose vehicle was taken by police in September. Washington was arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement, dealing in marijuana and obstruction of justice.
Criminal defense attorney Jeff Cardella shows off his “Don’t Tread on Me” cuff links outside the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. (Photo: Michelle Pemberton / IndyStar)
Cardella argues that the state should allow criminal defendants a hearing before an official forfeiture action.
In August U.S. District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled that Indiana’s forfeiture law violates the due process clause of the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Stinson issued an order that partially halts the police seizure of vehicles in Indiana drug cases and other related crimes, calling the seizure of vehicles before an official forfeiture action unconstitutional.
Hill appealed the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Call IndyStar reporter Fatima Hussein at (317) 444-6209. Follow her on Twitter: @fatimathefatima.
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