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Unappealing choices


Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller made two disappointing decisions last week, appealing a common-sense, welcome ruling and appointing a deputy attorney general to lobby the federal government full time.

12-year-old ‘adult’

The Indiana Court of Appeals rightly ruled in December that the state violated the due process rights of 12-year-old Paul Gingerich by waiving him into adult court without giving his attorneys anything approaching adequate time to prepare for the waiver hearing. The Kosciusko Circuit Court gave his attorney a week – including just four business days – to prepare for the hearing, though the attorney asked the court to wait for a psychological evaluation. Had the case occurred in Marion County, Gingerich’s attorney would have had three months.

Gingerich was accused of participating in a murder and must face the criminal justice system. But waiving a 12-year-old into adult court is highly unusual in Indiana, and such a decision should clearly have been made with great care and deliberation.

Justice demands exactly what the appeals court ordered – another hearing to determine whether the juvenile or adult court is the better place for the state to judge and sentence Gingerich.

“In America, you get more than five days to prepare for the most important hearing of your life, and when you don’t, you get a do-over,” Gingerich’s attorney, Monica Foster, told the Indianapolis Star.

But Zoeller appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, saying he didn’t want to set a precedent that allows a convicted defendant who pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain to later appeal the result. But that ignores the fact that the 12-year-old and his parents were told they had a choice between a 25-year sentence or going to trial as an adult, where the maximum sentence could be 65 years – a decision that should not have been forced until after a proper waiver hearing. The waiver hearing was so gallingly inadequate, anything that happened after that should be negated – as the appeals court ruled.

If Zoeller is successful, then Hoosiers need to worry about a different precedent – that judges can rush children into adult court without true consideration.

D.C. lobbyist

Indiana has nine elected U.S. representatives and two U.S. senators who represent Hoosiers in the nation’s capital. But that’s not enough for Zoeller, who assigned a deputy attorney general to work as a Washington lobbyist. The move seems at least partially motivated by Zoeller’s anti-federal government politics.

“Lobbyists and special interest groups live in Washington and have regular access to Congress and they often work to undercut the authority of state governments and centralize the authority of the federal government,” Zoeller said in a news release announcing the appointment of Richard Bramer to work in Washington.

The news release notes that Zoeller, at the request of Sen. Richard Lugar, prepared a report analyzing the Affordable Care Act. Part of that research was later used to help support the lawsuit Indiana and 25 other states filed in a failed attempt to block the health care law. While Zoeller uses the example as a reason to have a Washington lobbyist, it instead proves that Indiana can challenge the actions of Congress without having an attorney general’s lobbyist in Washington.

And don’t 11 elected members of Congress already represent Indiana?

After being elected in 2006, Ohio’s attorney general was the first to send a lobbyist to Washington.

But the job was eliminated less than two years later.