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High court grants 5 transfers

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted five transfers late on July 2, including cases on possession of cocaine in a family housing complex and "no fault" attendance policies in workplaces.

In Shewanda B. Beattie v. State of Indiana, No. 82A01-0805-CR-247, Shewanda Beattie's conviction of possession of cocaine in a family housing complex was reversed by the Indiana Court of Appeals because the jury acquitted her of the lesser-included offense of possession of cocaine. The unanimous panel didn't reverse her conviction due to insufficient evidence, but because the inconsistency in the jury's verdict left them unable to determine what evidence the jury believed. The judges relied on Owsley v. State, 769 N.E.2d 181 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), to reverse Beattie's conviction and remand for a new trial on the charge of possession of cocaine in a family housing complex.

In Gary Dennis Jackson v. State of Indiana, No. 39A01-0711-CR-528, the Court of Appeals reversed Gary Jackson's conviction of battery resulting in serious bodily injury, ruling the trial court abused its discretion by granting a mistrial after discovering five jurors read a newspaper article about jury selection for Jackson's second trial. The trial court didn't explain why it granted the mistrial instead of admonishing the jury. The discharge of the jury at his second trial operated as an acquittal and the subsequent trial was a violation of his right to be free from double jeopardy. Judge Cale Bradford dissented, believing the trial court was within its discretion to grant the mistrial and permit a retrial without violating Jackson's double jeopardy protections.

In Gloria Murray, et al. v. City of Lawrenceburg, No. 15A04-0803-CV-122, the majority affirmed the trial court denial of the city's motion for judgment on the pleadings because the appellate court couldn't say Gloria Murray and others were required to bring a claim for inverse condemnation because the ownership of the disputed property hasn't been determined. The majority also reversed the denial of Murray's demand for a jury trial. The case was remanded to resolve the timeliness of her claims, sever the timely filed distinct legal claims, and grant the demand for a jury trial as to those claims. Chief Judge John Baker dissented, believing the result reached by the majority will effectively preclude most, if not all, inverse condemnation actions in the future.

The high court also granted transfer to two cases involving the issue of "no-fault" attendance policies, where the Court of Appeals had split in their decisions regarding the reasonableness of such policies: Lisa Beckingham v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and Cenveo Corp., No. 93A02-0808-EX-771, and John Giovanoni II v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and Clarian Health Partners, Inc., No. 93A02-0806-EX-545. Both Lisa Beckingham and John Giovanoni were fired as a result of multiple excused absences.

In Beckingham's appeal, the Court of Appeals held the reasoning set forth in Jeffboat Inc. v. Review Board of Indiana Employment Security Division, 464 N.E.2d 377 (Ind. Ct. App. 1984), and Beene v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Employment and Training Services, 528 N.E.2d 842 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988), is the better rationale for determining the reasonableness of an employer's attendance policy. The majority in Beckingham's appeal affirmed she was discharged for just cause under Indiana Code Section 22-4-15-1(d)(2). Judge Edward Najam dissented, writing he would have followed the reasoning of the majority in Giovanoni, which ruled that termination for unsatisfactory attendance must be analyzed solely under section (d)(3). In Giovanoni, the majority ruled Love v. Heritage House Convalescent Center, 463 N.E.2d 478, 482, (Ind. Ct. App. 1983) provided a sounder model for determining eligibility for unemployment benefits when the employee is fired for attendance issues.

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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