Last year Joel Schumm discussed the Indiana Supreme Court’s recent trend of issuing per curiam opinions. In Latin, the term “per curiam” means “by the court.” A per curiam opinion is an opinion issued collectively by the court and does not list the individual judge responsible for authoring the decision.
In most cases, per curiam opinions are unanimous, as one would expect. As Schumm noted, normally per curiam opinions are limited to only those cases where no new rule of law or modification of existing law is being enunciated, a conflict between courts is not being resolved, the court is unanimous in its disposition, and the decision is not one of substantial public interest.
Schumm indicated that last year the Indiana Supreme Court issued eight per curiam opinions, which represented approximately one quarter of the Court’s criminal appellate docket. Schumm opined that the trend will likely continue. It seems he is right. In just the first couple of weeks of 2019, the Supreme Court of Indiana has issued three opinions. One of those opinions was a per curiam opinion. What made the opinion, Hoak v. State, notable was not the issue raised in the case but that the Court was deeply divided on the outcome yet chose to issue a per curiam opinion that did not include much, if any, explanation as to its reasons for revising the defendant’s sentence.