One of the more perplexing issues concerning my divorce case was how the Indiana Court of Appeals on July 20, 2010 denied my divorce appeal “panel per curiam.” I had no idea what “panel per curiam” meant at that time. After more research I discovered my case was an isolated one, as I could not find another case where the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled panel per curiam.
Dearborn County Prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard emphasized to the jury at my criminal trial that panel per curiam meant the entire Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the decision on my divorce appeal. Apparently it means that no one on the three judge panel has to sign the Appellate Decision, therefore keeping the names of the judges who ruled, secret, and that all the rest of the appellate judges are made aware of the “targeted” decision. The Indiana Court of Appeals doesn’t even have a procedure for ruling en banc, (all 15 judges sitting on a case). The ludicrous part is that the Indiana Court of Appeals had not ruled panel per curiam since the 1960’s. What was so significant about my divorce case, where Judge James Humphrey separated two little girls from their dad, that the court felt a need to rule panel per curiam, a process they hadn’t used for a ruling in 50 years?
Why would the judges who ruled panel per curiam want to remain anonymous? When my criminal trial went to the Indiana Court of Appeals the original panel was J Friedlander, J Brown, and J Darden. At the November 21, 2012 Oral Arguments the 3 judge panel was J Darden, J Baker, and J Riley. What happened to J Friedlander and J Brown? Is it possible that they were involved with the only anonymous (panel per curiam) decision that the Indiana Court of Appeals made in 50 years? Was it one of them who ruled that I was provided with all portions of Dr. Connor’s case file required by law even though there was no court record of what portions of his case file Dr. Connor submitted? Was it one of them who wrote, anonymously, that my internet writings during my divorce caused my ex-wife to file for protective orders on more than one occasion. (In fact she filed for only one protective order against my web content and her motion was denied by Judge Humphrey on 1st Amendment grounds.) Why did J Friedlander and J Brown withdraw from my criminal appeal? Where is the transparency in a case where two small children were removed from a father with no record of being a bad parent?
Murderers, gang members, serial rapists, and other violent offenders petition the Indiana Court of Appeals on a regular basis. These are people who are usually considered dangerous by most members of society, not bloggers. I have no history of violence. I’ve never threatened anyone with an illegal act. Why might any judge or public official be afraid of a man behind a keyboard? Could they be afraid of me blogging them to pieces or just afraid of what others might think if I criticized their judgment? [Note: during the oral arguments in my criminal case, Judge Baker failed to provide a rational explanation as to why there was an armed officer in the courtroom when police protection is virtually non-existent in appellate oral argument hearings.]
Many questions are left unanswered. When did Judge Friedlander and Judge Brown withdraw and did Judge Baker and Judge Riley have enough time to properly prepare for my oral arguments? Why did the three judge panel, who chose to remain anonymous in ruling on my divorce appeal, dig up something that the court hadn’t used in 50 years? Where is the transparency and integrity that we should expect from a state court of appeals?
Some time ago, I had a meeting with my attorney where he informed me that there might be some thought “out there” that the Appeals Court may have gotten it wrong on my criminal appeal. Odd. Which part of the ruling could have been the problem? Could it have been their ruling that harsh criticism of an Indiana judge's decision is subject to criminal prosecution or realizing the absurdity of the case law that was just forged; that under the Indiana intimidation statute, a judge could have Indiana law enforcement arrest any individual whom, in a judge’s opinion, unfairly criticizes that particular judge’s decisions, simply by claiming to be afraid? It is unfortunate for me that no one realized a possible “mistake” until after the Court’s ruling on January 17, 2013 because maybe I’d be home right now.
I would like to thank everyone for their continued love, support, and prayers.
Dan Brewington, with Sue Brewington