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Lane-El v. Spears

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 9, 2014

JOHN LANE-EL, Appellant/Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL SPEARS, in his official capacity of Chief of Police, and the Indianapolis Police Department, Appellees/Defendants

Page 860

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 861

APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Heather A. Welch, Judge. Cause No. 49D12-0610-PL-44021.

JOHN LANE-EL, Pro se, New Castle, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: ANGELA S. JOSEPH, Office of Corporation Counsel, Indianapolis, Indiana.

PYLE, Judge, MATHIAS, J., and BRADFORD, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 862

PYLE, Judge

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

John Lane-El (" Lane-El" ), pro se, appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Indianapolis Police Department (the " IPD" )[1] and Michael Spears in his official capacity as Chief of Police (" Chief Spears" ) (collectively, " the Defendants" ), as well as the trial court's denial of his motion for in camera review.

We affirm in part and reverse in part.

ISSUES

1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the Defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment.
2. Whether the trial court committed a clear error when it denied Lane-El's motion for in camera review.

FACTS

Lane-El was convicted of a sex crime and is currently incarcerated. On January 9, 2006, while incarcerated, Lane-El filed a request for public records with the IPD pursuant to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act (" APRA" ). He requested records related to his criminal case, including:

1. The original or a true and accurate copy of the tape or audio recording of the 911 emergency call (including any transcripts) received by [the IPD] on November 17, 1992, regarding an accident which occurred at . . . Indianapolis, Indiana, Marion County, at approximately 9:42 a.m., case no. 068756G;

2. The original or a true and accurate copy of the tape or audio recording of the " Voluntary Statement" of [the confidential informant], taken by [the IPD], Detective Monica Endres on November

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18, 1992, including but limited to any and all transcripts (draft or final) of said statement;

3. The original or a true and accurate copy of the tape or audio recording of the " Voluntary Statement" of John Lane taken by the Indianapolis Police Department on November 17, 1992, by [D]etective Monica Endres, including but not limited to any and all transcripts (draft or final) of said statement;

4. The original or a true and accurate copy of any videotape of the scene located at . . ., by [the IPD] (or its agents or employees) as a result of or with regard to the sexual assault or resulting investigation that occurred at that location on November 17, 1992, regardless of whether the videotape was taken by or on behalf of [the IPD] or the Marion County Prosecutor's Office;

* * *

5. The original or a true and accurate copy of any notes, reports, interdepartmental communications, telephone messages or other documentation regarding communications between IPD Detective Monica Endres and [the confidential informant] for the time period of November 17, 1992, to the present (including but not limited to communications between them on November 18, 1992[); ]

6. The original or a true and accurate copy of any notes, reports, inter-departmental communications or other documentation or file[s] maintained by [the IPD] or IPD [D]etective Monica Endres regarding [the confidential informant's] status as a confidential informant, including but not limited to any documents that reflect the process or progress made to establish or attempt to establish [the confidential informant] as a confidential informant for the time period of January 1, 1992, through the present;

7. A true and accurate copy of the negatives from [the IPD] Photo Unit, Photo File Number 068756G;

8. To the extent not covered by request no. 7 above, please produce a complete copy of the color photographs taken by [the IPD] of the scene located at . . . Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, regarding an incident that occurred at that location on November 17, 1992, case no. 068756G;

9. A true and accurate copy of all handwritten notes, reports, or inter-departmental communications prepared by or at the direction of [D]etective Monica Endres (a/k/a Monica Knist), with regard to an incident that occurred at . . . Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, on November 17, 1992, case no. 068756G;

10. A true and accurate copy of all handwritten notes, reports, or inter-departmental communications prepared by IPD Officer James Harris with regard to an incident that occurred 30th and Arlington at a 500 Liquor Store, 2927 N. Arlington; and at . . . Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana on November 17, 1992, under case no. 068756G;

11. A true and accurate copy of all handwritten notes, reports, or inter-departmental communications prepared by IPD Officer Steven Staal with regards to an incident that occurred at 30th and N. Arlington at a 500 Liquor Store, 2927 N. Arlington; and at . . . Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana on November 17, 1992, case no. 068756G;

12. A true and accurate copy of all handwritten notes, reports, or inter-departmental communications prepared by IPD Officer William Estes with regards to an incident that occurred at 30th and Arlington at a 500 Liquor Store, 2927 N. Arlington; and at . . . Indianapolis, Marion

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County, Indiana, on November 17, 1992, case no. 068756G; and[]

13. A true and accurate copy of all handwritten notes, reports, diagrams, photographs, videotape recordings or inter-departmental communications prepared by or at the directions of Crime Lab Technician, R. Layton, with regards to an incident that occurred at . . . Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana on November 17, 1992, case no. 068756G.

(App. 193-95).

The IPD did not respond to Lane-El's request, and on May 1, 2006, he sent an additional request. Again, the IPD did not respond. On May 31, 2006, Lane-El filed a formal complaint with the State of Indiana's Public Access Counselor, Karen Davis (" Davis" ). Davis sent a letter to the IPD requesting its response to the complaint by June 21, 2006. On July 5, 2006, after not hearing from the IPD, Davis found that the IPD had violated the APRA by failing to respond to Lane-El.

Subsequently, on July 27, 2006, Lane-El filed a complaint against the IPD and Chief Spears, in his official capacity as the Chief of the IPD, requesting that the trial court compel the IPD to comply with his public records request. On December 15, 2006, Lane-El moved for a default judgment. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and a response to Lane-El's motion for default judgment on January 25, 2007, arguing that Lane-El had failed to properly serve them. The trial court granted the Defendants' motion without prejudice. However, Lane-El appealed, and this Court reversed and remanded the trial court's decision on December 14, 2007. See Lane-El v. Spears, 877 N.E.2d 1254 (Ind.Ct.App. 2007). We held that Lane-El's service was reasonably calculated to inform the Defendants that he had instigated a suit against them.

On April 23, 2007, the City of Indianapolis's Public Access Counselor, Lauren Toppen (" Toppen" ), sent Lane-El a letter responding to his public records request. She informed Lane-El that there were no documents responsive to the first item in his request and that items two through thirteen were exempt from disclosure under the APRA because they were compiled in the course of an investigation. However, Toppen conceded that the incident report Lane-El had requested in his request numbers 10, 11, and 12 contained information the Act required to be disclosed. She provided Lane-El with the report but redacted certain portions that the Act required to remain confidential, such as the name and age of the victim.

Two years later, in January of 2009, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Lane-El's complaint for a failure to prosecute. Lane-El acquired new counsel, and his new counsel filed a response to the motion arguing that the failure to prosecute was the previous court-appointed attorney's fault, not Lane-El's. On February 2, 2009, the trial court denied the Defendants' motion. Subsequently, on May 9, 2012--over three years later--the Defendants filed another motion to dismiss, again arguing that Lane-El had failed to prosecute his claim. The trial court held a hearing on July 16, 2012, and denied the motion but ordered the parties to file dispositive motions by September 30, 2012.

On October 4, 2012, Lane-El filed a motion for summary judgment pro se, contending that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that the undisputed facts showed that the Defendants had violated the APRA. The Defendants responded in opposition to Lane-El's motion on February 11, 2013, and also filed their ...


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