Frequently Asked Questions About Appellate Court Decisions
Terms hyperlinked in bold will display a definition of the term when clicked.
What does it mean when the Indiana Supreme Court grants a petition to transfer?
The Indiana Supreme Court must hear every case in which the defendant receives a sentence of death or the trial court declares a state or federal statute unconstitutional. In addition, the Court must hear sentences of life in prison without parole imposed under Indiana Code 35-50-2-9. But it does not have to hear a case that is effectively a "life sentence" because of multiple crimes or additional prison time imposed by the state's Habitual Offender law.
However, in virtually every other case, the five-members of the Court have the discretion to decide if they wish to hear a case. Typically, one of the parties, or sides, involved in a Court of Appeals case will petition the Supreme Court to "grant transfer." Granting a petition to transfer is a preliminary indication that the Court intends to hear the case and issue a written opinion. The immediate effect is that the Court of Appeals case is "vacated" or dissolved and the controlling decision of the case is the original trial court decision, until the Supreme Court issues its opinion.
What does it mean when the Indiana Supreme Court denies a request to grant a petition to transfer?
If a party to a Court of Appeals case files a petition to transfer, the Supreme Court may grant the petition and accept the case or it may deny the petition. If the petition to transfer is denied, the Court of Appeals decision remains the last word on that case. A denial of a petition to transfer means that particular case is over. It does not necessarily mean the Supreme Court has "affirmed" the underlying Court of Appeals decision. The most accurate description of the impact of a denial of a petition to transfer is that the Supreme Court "let stand" or "left unchanged" the decision of the Court of Appeals. The decision remains as a precedent of the Court of Appeals, not of the Supreme Court.
Can a party appeal a decision to grant or deny transfer to the U.S. Supreme Court?
The U.S. Supreme Court has almost total discretion to choose the cases it wishes to decide. A party generally has the right to request the U.S. Supreme Court to consider an Indiana Supreme Court decision, whether it is a published opinion or a decision on transfer, only if a right under the U.S. Constitution is involved in the appeal. For example, a defendant might argue that his or her lawyer did not provide effective assistance at the trial. If that were true, it would be a violation of the right to have an attorney that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A defendant could make that kind of claim to a federal court, like the U.S. District Court or the Circuit Court of Appeals, or the U.S. Supreme Court. Alternatively, a defendant could make that kind of claim in a habeas corpus action filed in a U.S. District (trial) Court. (The federal system has 13 Circuit Courts. Federal appeals from Indiana are heard by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Chicago.) A decision of that court could be appealed to a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A party may then request the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the Court of Appeals decision.
If the Court of Appeals orders a new trial in a criminal case and the defendant is in prison, is the defendant immediately released?
Typically, the defendant will remain in prison at least until the Indiana Attorney General, after consulting with the local county prosecutor who tried the case, makes a decision about whether to file a petition to transfer the case to the Indiana Supreme Court or to retry the defendant.
If the Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in a criminal case and the Indiana Supreme Court denies a petition to transfer, is the defendant immediately released from prison?
Typically, the defendant will remain in prison until the local county prosecutor who tried the case makes a decision about whether to retry the defendant.
If the Supreme Court reverses a conviction and orders a new trial in a criminal case and the defendant is in prison, is the defendant immediately released?
Typically, the defendant will remain in prison, or be transferred to the local jail,until the local county prosecutor who tried the case makes a decision about whether to retry the defendant.
If the Indiana Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals reverses a criminal conviction, can the defendant be tried again?
In most cases, the local county prosecutor can retry the defendant. However, if the reason for the reversal of the conviction was because of a lack of evidence, the defendant cannot be tried again.
If the prosecutor loses at the trial court, can the prosecutor make an appeal to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court?
The right of the State to appeal in a criminal case is limited. By statute, the State may appeal in a criminal case only: 1) from an order granting a motion to dismiss an indictment or information; 2) from an order or judgment for the defendant, upon his motion for discharge because of delay of his trial, or upon his plea of former jeopardy 3) from an order granting a motion to correct errors; 4) upon a question reserved by the State, if the defendant is acquitted; 5) from an order granting a motion to suppress evidence, if the ultimate effect of the order is to preclude further prosecution; and 6) from any interlocutory order if the trial court certifies and appellate court grants the State permission to do so.
Can I check the status of an appellate case on-line?
Yes, the Clerk of the Court's office and the Supreme Court maintain an online docket that allows you to look up the what has occurred in a given case by reviewing the events in what is known as the Chronological Case Summary (CCS). To look up cases, visit the Clerk's Online Appellate Docket. You can search by the litigant's name, the attorney's name, the lower court's case number, or the appellate courts case number.
- View Current Supreme Court Opinions
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- View Current Tax Court Opinions
These links are for opinions that have been released or "handed down" within the previous six days and are moved to an archive webpage after six days. You can reach the archives for all three courts at: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/. The archives are split into two sections: opinions released before 6/6/2005 and those released after that date. This is due to an upgrade to the technical system for publishing opinions.
When viewing an archive page, you can often find a particular case by typing in CTRL+F (Find), and then by typing in the party's name in the search field. You can also search for opinions by the litigant's name, case number, or even by keyword by using the search box in the upper right corner of this website. Change the search collection from "Indiana Courts" to "Appellate Opinions," type your search terms into the box and click "Go." Please note, the online listing of cases until goes back to early 1999.