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Appeals court affirms sending employee appeal back to agency

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of a fired Department of Correction employee’s petition for judicial review, finding that it was clear on the record that an administrative agency’s action was without evidentiary foundation. The appellate court noted the difficulty the judge had in conducting the judicial review due to deficiencies in recording testimony.

George Finney, who was a teacher at the Westville Correctional Facility, was fired after becoming belligerent and verbally abusive toward Westville officials after he was made to put his cell phone in his car before going into the facility. The Indiana State Employees’ Appeal Commission and an administrative law judge found that Westville proved it had cause to fire Finney. The full commission affirmed the ALJ’s determination, so Finney sought judicial review in Marion Superior Court.

There were numerous technical issues during the ALJ’s hearing, so most of the witnesses’ testimony wasn’t recorded and often recordings were inaudible, static, or blank. Only Finney’s and one other person’s testimony was intelligible.

Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer granted Finney’s petition, set aside the agency action and remanded to the agency for further proceedings.

The COA affirmed, finding Westville didn’t show that the reviewing court committed reversible error. It’s clear from the record that the agency’s action was without evidentiary foundation, let alone substantial evidence as required by Indiana Code 4-21.5-5-14(d)(5), wrote Senior Judge Patrick Sullivan in Westville Correctional Facility, et al. v. George Finney, No. 49A05-1103-PL-92.

“Without question Judge Dreyer’s task in conducting his judicial review was made difficult, if not virtually impossible, by the woeful deficiencies in the tape recordings of the testimony of various witnesses so that the attempts to transcribe the proceedings from those tapes were unavailing,” he wrote. “Suffice it to say that our extensive compilation of what appears on the purported record of the proceedings before the administrative agency reflects an intolerable failure to preserve the evidence or to make sure that the recording equipment was adequate to the task at hand. The posture of the case at its various levels, including this level, cries out for remedial action with respect to SEAC’s method of preserving testimonial evidence.”

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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