ILNews

Court grants absolute privilege case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court will consider whether absolute privilege exists for communications made in the course of official proceedings brought under a university's anti-harassment policies.

The court granted transfer Wednesday in Virginia Hartman and Suzanne Swinehart v. Dr. Gabe Keri , No. 02A03-0603-CV-135, which comes from Allen Superior Judge David Avery.

Keri became an assistant professor of education in August 2000 at Indiana University-Purdue University - Fort Wayne and was notified in April 2003 that his contract wouldn't be renewed because of unsatisfactory performance. Two students, Hartman and Swinehart, immediately filed sexual harassment complaints against him.

Keri ultimately sued in Allen Superior Court on grounds of defamation, alleging the two graduate students had conspired to commit slander against him. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment on the allegation of malicious interference with Keri's employment contract but denied it on the defamation issues. The court found a material of fact on the issue of whether Swinehart and Hartman had abused the protection of qualified privilege that had been extended to the anti-harassment proceeding.

The Court of Appeals reversed in a Dec. 27, 2006, opinion and granted summary judgment for the students, holding that "absolute privilege is essential to protect the integrity of the judicial functions embodied by the anti-harassment proceeding."

In a separate dissenting opinion, Judge Carr Darden disagreed with the majority and noted that absolute privilege should not apply, that the statements by Hartman and Swinehart could potentially get qualified privilege protection, and that the Purdue proceedings don't rise to the level of "judicial process." He noted that the proceedings lacked representation of counsel, testimony under oath, cross-examination, and a legal remedy - therefore, the statements must be put to the test.

A date for oral arguments has not been set.
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  1. The Conour embarrassment is an example of why it would be a good idea to NOT name public buildings or to erect monuments to "worthy" people until AFTER they have been dead three years, at least. And we also need to stop naming federal buildings and roads after a worthless politician whose only achievement was getting elected multiple times (like a certain Congressman after whom we renamed the largest post office in the state). Also, why have we renamed BOTH the Center Township government center AND the new bus terminal/bum hangout after Julia Carson?

  2. Other than a complete lack of any verifiable and valid historical citations to back your wild context-free accusations, you also forget to allege "ate Native American children, ate slave children, ate their own children, and often did it all while using salad forks rather than dinner forks." (gasp)

  3. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  4. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  5. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

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