Is it time for a judicial re-do?
By Jim Banks
After a legislative session with its share of landmark policy decisions, I was eager to return home, get back to my family and my regular job and take a break from policy battles.
Unfortunately, the Indiana Supreme Court had other plans.
The outrage rolling across the state against an Indiana Supreme Court ruling has been one of the few things to unite people from different political backgrounds. With just a few simple words, Justice Steven David launched a devastating attack on individual Hoosiers’ liberties:
"We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers. We believe however that a right to resist unlawful police entry is… incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence."
Contrast Justice David’s words with the actual text of the 4th Amendment:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."
I will not short change the concerns about the specifics of the case that brought this matter to the attention of the Indiana Supreme Court. Domestic violence is a serious matter and law enforcement officials must be free to protect citizens in accordance with the rights and restrictions placed on these officers by the Constitution. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling in this case will do very little to protect citizens from the horrors of domestic violence and might even open the door to abuse by some law enforcement officials.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller went on the record stating the court has ruled too broadly. Newton County’s Prosecutor Jeff Drinski issued a statement clarifying that random "door-to-door" searches would NOT be permitted in his jurisdiction. Drinski took this action after comments attributed to Newton County Sheriff Don Hartman, Sr. suggested that his officers would do so since it was permitted by this ruling.
It’s hard to believe that the court can simply decide that modern conveniences like bail, prompt arraignment and civil recourse actually trump our Constitutional rights.
The Fourth Amendment wasn’t randomly demanded by the states. Rather, it reflected an outgrowth of protection that then-colonies had already recognized in many instances in their own codes of laws. There are several examples of these colonies adopting laws protecting ordinary citizens from similar illegal incursions by government authorities.
Put yourself in the shoes of an American colonist. At the time, the Common Law guarantees enshrined in the Fourth Amendment were not a given in the colonies. British soldiers did not require justification to enter and search your home. It was just one of many examples of how property rights were not recognized by the Crown in the lead up to the American Revolution.
News articles are already circulating about law enforcement supervisors who are more than ready to flex their muscles under the new-found "freedom" granted by this court ruling.
The nature of our part-time legislature in Indiana has left many citizens feeling powerless. I’ve fielded many calls and emails from constituents who are worried that we can’t stop this dangerous ruling from being implemented. Though we don’t return to the Statehouse until next January, I am already working with other senators on drafting an amendment that will ensure our freedoms can’t be encroached by unelected state Supreme Court justices.
Governors get to select a lawyer from a group vetted by a nominating commission. We citizens get to vote to keep them or throw them out by voting to retain them for another term. How many people will have their rights trampled before then?
While in the short term I’m committed to working with my fellow conservative legislators to restore these Constitutional rights, over the long term it is clear that Indiana needs to open a debate about judicial accountability. There are a number of options on the table—perhaps giving the people a voice on these nominations by requiring the Senate to consent to these appointments is appropriate (similar to Federal judges as well as the states of Delaware and New York). Another solution used in many states might be to elect justices to the bench rather than simple appointments.
The bottom line is that Hoosiers demand greater accountability across all levels and branches of government, and this ruling throws that need into stark relief. Join me and conservative Hoosiers across the state to make your voices heard on this issue, so we can fight back and prevent this attack on our liberties from taking hold in Indiana.
Jim Banks serves as State Senator for District 17, serving much of Whitley County. Banks and his wife, Amanda, live in Columbia City where they're raising their family, active in church and community activities.