The following significant cases decided by the United States Supreme Court had some close connection with Indianapolis, although the list is not exhaustive.

West façade of the United States Supreme Court Building, Washington D.C., 2008
Credit: UpstateNYer via Wikimedia Commons

1. Armour v. City Of Indianapolis (June 4, 2012) affirmed a decision of the Indiana Supreme Court that  the City of Indianapolis did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it adopted a new method for funding sewer construction and did not refund up-front lump-sum assessments paid by some homeowners in the Northern Estates neighborhood in Indianapolis while forgiving the yet-to-be-paid assessments owed by other homeowners who paid assessments over time.

2. Indiana v. Edwards (June 19, 2008), where Edwards maintained that the state trial court had violated his constitutional rights when it denied his request to represent himself at his trial on attempted murder charges criminal trial because he was mentally ill. The Court held that the “Constitution does not forbid States from insisting upon representation by counsel for those competent enough to stand trial but who suffer from severe mental illness to the point where they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings by themselves.” The Supreme Court’s opinion reversed a decision of the Indiana Supreme Court and reinstated the decision of Judge Grant Hawkins of the Marion Superior Court.

3. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (April 28, 2008) affirmed the decision of District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker that had found the evidence in the record insufficient to declare unconstitutional an Indiana statute that required citizens voting in person to present government-issued photo identification. The plurality opinion of Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Stevens, and Justice Kennedy concluded that “on the basis of the record that has been made in this litigation, we cannot conclude that the statute imposes “excessively burdensome requirements” on any class of voters”. 

4. City Of Indianapolis v. Edmond (November 28, 2000), where Edmond’s vehicle had been stopped during a highway checkpoint program whose primary purpose was the discovery and interdiction of illegal narcotics. The Court held that because “the checkpoint program’s primary purpose [was] indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the checkpoints violate[d] the Fourth Amendment.” The Supreme Court’s opinion reversed the decision of District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker.

5. Heck v. Humphrey (June 24, 1994), where a state prisoner brought a § 1983 action for damages alleging that he had been unlawfully investigated, arrested, tried, and convicted. The Court held that § 1983 was not an available remedy because any award in the plaintiff’s favor would “necessarily imply” the invalidity of his conviction. (U.S. Code 42, Section 1983 provides a means of enforcing civil rights that already exist.) This case has been cited thousands of times and was called a “pathmarking decision” in Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521,533 (2011). The Supreme Court’s opinion affirmed the decision of District Court Judge James E. Noland.

6. Commissioner Of Internal Revenue v. Indianapolis Power & Light Co (January 9, 1990), where Indianapolis Power And Light Company (IPL) required security deposits from new customers that were refunded with interest upon termination of service. The Court held that the customer deposits were not advance payments for electricity and therefore did not constitute taxable income to IPL upon receipt. Larry Stroble argued the case for IPL. The case originated in the U.S. Tax Court.

7. Ft. Wayne Books v. Indiana (February 21, 1989), where Allen and Marion County trial courts approved ex parte requests from county prosecutors for immediate seizure of obscene and films from “adult bookstores” under the state Civil Remedies for Racketeering Activity (CRRA) statute. The Court held that while there was “no constitutional bar to the State’s inclusion of substantive obscenity violations among the predicate offenses under its RICO [CRRA] statute[, ] … [t]he pretrial seizure of [the] bookstore[s] and [their] contents… was improper. While a single copy of a book or film may be seized and retained for evidentiary purposes based on a finding of probable cause, books or films may not be taken out of circulation completely until there has been a determination of obscenity after an adversary hearing.” The Supreme Court’s opinion reversed the decision of the Indiana Supreme Court and agreed with the decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals.

8. Cts Corporation. v. Dynamics Corporation Of America (April 21, 1987), where Dynamics Corporation maintained that the Indiana Business Takeover Act impermissibly conflicted with the federal Williams Act and its implementing regulations governing hostile corporate stock tender offers. The Court held that the Indiana Act was consistent with the provisions and purposes of the Williams Act and not preempted by it. The case originated in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

9. Davis v. Bandemer (June 30, 1986), where Indiana Democrats maintained that the 1981 Indiana reapportionment plan for the State Legislature constituted a political gerrymander intended to disadvantage Democrats, and that the particular mix of single-member and multi-member districts violated their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court held that political gerrymandering is properly justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause. The justices also  held that political gerrymandering had “occurred in this case,” noting that in the 1982 elections for the Indiana House of Representatives, Democratic candidates won 52% of votes cast statewide but only 43 out of the 100 seats filled. While six justices (Justices Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens) concluded that the case was justiciable, only two (Justices Powell and Stevens) concluded that the reapportionment plan had violated the Equal Protection Clause. (Chief Justice Burger and Justices Rehnquist and O’Connor concluded that partisan gerrymandering claims raise a nonjusticiable political question.) The Supreme Court’s opinion reversed the decision of the District Court which heard the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284 that required the appointment of a three-judge panel when legislative reapportionment is challenged. 

10. Jackson v. Indiana (June 7, 1972), where Jackson (a person with cognitive incapacity, deafness, and other disabilities) who had been arrested for petty theft and committed pursuant to an Indiana statute until such time as the health department could certify his sanity, maintained that his commitment was tantamount to a “life sentence” without his having been convicted of a crime. The Court held that Jackson had been deprived of equal protection (by subjecting him to a more lenient commitment standard and to a more stringent standard of release than those generally applicable to all other persons not charged with offenses) and that Indiana’s indefinite commitment of a criminal defendant solely on account of his lack of capacity to stand trial violated due process. The Supreme Court’s opinion reversed the decision of the Indiana Supreme Court.

11. Whitcomb v. Chavis (June 7, 1971), where the District Court (Circuit Court Judge Otto Kerner Jr., and District Judges William E. Steckler and James E. Noland) had concluded that a 1965 Indiana reapportionment statute establishing Marion County as a multi-member district for the election of state legislators invidiously diluted the votes of minority voters and poor persons living in the “ghetto area” of Marion County. The Court reversed the District Court and remanded the case for further proceedings. 

12. George Van Camp & Sons Company v. American Can Company (January 2, 1929), where American Can Company sold its cans to one company at a discount of 20 percent below the announced standard prices at which it sold cans of the same kind to Van Camp and discriminated in other respects in its sales and marketing practices. The Court held that the discrimination violated § 2 of the Clayton Act. The Supreme Court’s decision was in the form of a response to questions certified by the Seventh Circuit on an appeal from the District Court’s dismissal of Van Camp’s request to enjoin violations of the Clayton Act.

13. Darnell v. Indiana (December 23, 1912), where Indiana taxed the shares of foreign corporations (except national banks) owned by Indiana residents but only taxed the shares of domestic corporations when their property was not taxable to the corporations themselves. The Court held the tax system was not unconstitutional as contrary to the Commerce Clause. The opinion, written by Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr., affirmed the decisions of the Indiana Supreme Court. Eighty years later, the Indiana Supreme Court was presented with a Commerce Clause challenge to a virtually identical version of the Indiana intangibles tax. The Court found Darnell v. Indiana controlling and rejected the challenge.

14. Cheever v. Wilson (December 1, 1869), where the validity of an Indiana divorce decree was at issue (the couple had primarily resided in the District of Columbia) in a dispute over entitlement to rents from property in the District of Columbia. The Court held that “[t]he Constitution and laws of the United States give the decree the same effect elsewhere which it had in Indiana. “If a judgment is conclusive in a State where it is rendered, it is equally conclusive everywhere’ in the courts of the United States.” The case, which originated in the District of Columbia Supreme Court, has been cited as an example of Indiana’s reputation as a “divorce mill” in the mid-19th century.

15. Ex Parte Milligan (April 3, 1866), where Lambdin P. Milligan, a Southern sympathizer in Indiana, maintained in federal habeas corpus proceedings that his treason conviction and death sentence should be vacated because they had been imposed by a military commission in Indiana in violation of the Constitution (see Civil War Treason Trials). The Court held that military commissions, organized during the Civil War in a State not invaded and not engaged in rebellion and in which the Federal courts were open and unobstructed in the exercise of their judicial functions, had no jurisdiction to try, convict, or sentenced for any criminal offense, a citizen who was neither a resident of a rebellious State, nor a prisoner of war, nor a person in the military or naval service. The court also held that Congress could not invest such a military commission with any such power. In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Chase, joined by three other members of the court, agreed that the military commission as constituted did not have the statutory authority to try Milligan but disagreed that Congress did not have the constitutional authority, though not exercised, to authorize the military commission which was held in Indiana.

Revised June 2021

Help improve this entry

Contribute information, offer corrections, suggest images.

You can also recommend new entries related to this topic.