Professors File Amicus Brief Before Indiana Supreme Court

Date posted: November 4, 2013

Fort Wayne, Ind. — Indiana Tech Law School professors James Berles, Adam Lamparello, and Charles MacLean recently filed an amicus brief before the Indiana Supreme Court in the case of Bryant E. Wilson v. State of Indiana. An “amicus” brief is also known as a “friend of the court” brief, and it is often filed by individuals or organizations that are not directly involved in an appeal, but who believe that there are legal issues that must be brought to the attention of the reviewing court.

Wilson was convicted of three felonies and received sentences that were partially consecutive and partially concurrent. The Tech Law professors submitted their amicus brief in an effort to persuade the Indiana Supreme Court that Wilson received an improper sentence because Indiana law provides that sentences must be either consecutive or concurrent. A court may not impose a hybrid of the two.

“It is a separation of powers issue at its core,” MacLean explained. “Indiana’s legislature has the power to limit the types of sentences that can be imposed for criminal offenses. Indiana courts only have that degree of sentencing authority given to them by the legislature. In this case, the hybrid sentence the court imposed on Mr. Wilson had not been authorized by the legislature.”

This amicus brief is the first one filed by the law school’s faculty members. Berles explained that providing guidance to the courts is one of the unique ways in which law professors can serve the legal profession.

“Most people think that law professors spend much of their time writing law review articles on esoteric subjects that have little interest to anyone outside of the profession, and there is some truth to that,” he said. “By way of this amicus brief, we hope to make a tangible contribution in a real case and assist the Indiana Supreme Court, even in a small way, as it decides an issue that has real ramifications for criminal defendants in Indiana.”

The trio believes that each professor has learned a lot from the process. “This experience provided us with an opportunity to serve the Indiana Supreme Court, members of the bar, and the broader community by participating in a discussion that affects personal liberty and individual rights,” Lamparello said. “As faculty members at Indiana Tech Law School, and as a citizen of Indiana, it was an honor to assist the Court in resolving this important issue.”