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Judge: Names in workforce development cases should remain confidential

August 25, 2011

There appears to be discord among the judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals as to whether party names should be confidential in workforce development cases.

Chief Judge Margret Robb and Judges Edward Najam and Terry Crone released an unemployment benefits decision Thursday using only initials to identify the parties: company S.S. and employee D.H. In the opinion – in which the judges affirmed the finding of the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that D.H. was not terminated for just cause and is eligible for unemployment benefits – authoring Judge Najam and Chief Judge Robb noted they agreed with the recent opinion by another panel that names of parties should be used in workforce development cases.

But in S.S. LLC v. Review Board and D.H., No. 93A02-1101-EX-56, Judge Crone wrote a 7-page concurring opinion in which he agreed with the outcome of D.H.’s case, but felt that initials should be used instead of party names in review board case captions and opinions. This is contrary to the unanimous opinion issued Aug. 12 in LaDon A. Moore v. Review Board and Whitington Homes and Services, No. 93A02-1005-EX-529, in which authoring Judge John Baker and Judges James Kirsch and Elaine Brown held statute and administrative rules did not require the court to use initials in these types of cases.

The Moore judges noted that the initials-only practice began Jan. 1, 2010 – even though Indiana Code 22-4-19-6 has remained much the same since 1947 – when the issue was brought up that amendments to Administrative Rule 9(G) required using initials. In Moore, the review board had filed a motion asking the court to publish the names of the parties, individuals, and employment units in that case and all future cases.

Judge Crone found the position of the Moore court to be contrary to law and even pointed out that the Indiana Supreme Court adopted Administrative Rule 9(G)(1)(b)(xviii) using initials at the request of a former chief judge of the COA, making a reference to Judge Baker without using his name by saying that the chief judge also authored Moore.

Crone disagreed with the analysis in the Moore decision, believing that the rule amendment does apply to the Court of Appeals, that the COA’s opinions are easily searchable online regardless of whether full names are used, and opinions are not the same thing as an order for purposes of I.C. 22-4-19-6(b).

“More generally, I am dubious about the propriety of a single panel of this Court issuing a ruling on a motion in a single case that will affect the privacy rights of unemployment litigants in future cases,” Judge Crone wrote. “I have no position on the propriety of or the wisdom behind the rule as written, but I believe that we must follow it until such time as it is repealed by our supreme court. I would encourage our supreme court to visit this issue by court opinion or rule change to give proper guidance in and finality to this matter.”

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