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Court clarifies, reaffirms its prior back pay ruling

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The Indiana Court of Appeals denied an Attorney General’s request to clarify a previous ruling that slashed a $42.4 million damages award, and clarified the two-month period from which state employees can recover back pay.

In a rehearing opinion issued today in Richmond State Hospital, et al. v. Paula Brattain, Francis Ernst, et al., No. 49A02-0908-CV-718, the appellate court briefly clarified but mostly affirmed its Oct. 8 ruling in the case that impacts thousands of past and present state workers trying to recover money they should have earned on the job. The state appellate judges had previously reversed one part of a Marion Superior judge’s decision from last year that some of those employees could recover back pay for a period from 1973 to 1993, holding that the period should only extend from 10 days before the filing on July 29, 1993, to mid-September 1993.

The trial court on remand must determine whether the state terminated the split class system on either Sept. 12 or Sept. 19, 1993, according to that prior decision and today’s rehearing ruling. Estimated damages for merit-based employees have gone from $23.5 million to an estimated couple million dollars, while the remaining $18.6 million awarded to non-merit employees would not be affected by the appellate rulings.

In a footnote, Judge Terry Crone wrote that “The Employees argue that the State had the burden to prove that each individual employee did not file an administrative grievance as part of its statute of limitations defense, which is an affirmative defense. We disagree. Access to the courts and the amount of back pay to which a successful litigant is entitled are two separate issues.”

Now, parties have the chance to seek transfer before the Indiana Supreme Court to possibly come out with a different result on part or all of the intermediate appellate rulings.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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