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DeCola v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 17, 2018

Thomas A. DeCola, Appellant-Petitioner,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent

          Appeal from the Jasper Superior Court The Honorable Russell D. Bailey, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 37D01-1802-MI-81

          Appellant Pro Se Thomas A. DeCola North Judson, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Henry A. Flores, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE

         [¶1] Thomas DeCola appeals the trial court's order denying his request to expunge any and all records pertaining to a school suspension. DeCola also argues that he was improperly denied a jury trial. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Facts

         [¶2] DeCola was suspended from Kankakee Valley High School in 2001; because of this, his driving privileges were subsequently suspended.[1] DeCola regained his driving privileges in 2002.

         [¶3] On February 6, 2018, DeCola petitioned the trial court to expunge any and all records pertaining to his 2001 school suspension. On February 13, 2018, the trial court denied the petition to expunge. Shortly thereafter, on February 20, 2018, DeCola filed a new expungement petition and a motion to correct error.

         [¶4] At a hearing on March 8, 2018, the trial court denied both the new petition to expunge and the motion to correct error. At the hearing, the trial court made clear that DeCola could not identify any relevant statute as a basis for his claim. DeCola now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶5] DeCola presents two arguments on appeal: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his request to expunge any and all records pertaining to his 2001 school suspension; and (2) he was entitled to a jury trial.

         [¶6] We reverse a lower court's ruling denying a petition to expunge only where the decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it. Cline v. State, 61 N.E.3d 360, 362 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016).

         [¶7] First, DeCola's claim that the trial court improperly denied his petition to expunge the school suspension from his record is totally without merit. The Indiana Code does not allow for an individual to have a school suspension expunged from his records. Rather, expungement as a remedy is limited to criminal arrests and convictions. Ind. Code § 35-38-9-2(-5). DeCola would have us act as legislators and add school suspension to the list of penalties capable of being expunged, which we may not do. Any collateral argument that DeCola makes based on precedent and stare decisis is equally unfounded and without any merit. We hold that the trial court did not err in denying DeCola's amended petition for expungement of the school suspension from his records.

         [¶8] Second, DeCola's claim that the trial court erred when it did not conduct a jury trial fails as a matter of substance. Indiana Trial Rule 38(A) specifies that "[a]ny party may demand a trial by jury of any issue triable of right by a jury." (Emphasis added). Historically, the only issues that were deemed triable by a jury were those available at common law. Cardinal Health Ventures, Inc. v. Scanameo, 85 N.E.3d 637, 640 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). The common law era predates modernity, and it has been the province of today's courts to determine whether a particular claim would have been legal or equitable. Id. Generally, claims which were equitable rather than legal in nature were tried by a court rather than by a jury. Lewandowski v. Beverly, 420 N.E.2d 1278, 1282 (Ind.Ct.App. 1981). Therefore, if the issue was equitable ...


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