ILNews

COA affirms jail phone commissions

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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After years of litigation, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that the Marion County Sheriff and the Indiana Department of Administration were allowed to enter into contracts with a phone company that provided commissions to the sheriff and IDOA on phone calls made from the jail and prison facilities.

In Chanelle Linet Alexander, et al. v. The Marion County Sheriff and the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration, No. 49A02-0708-CV-716, the plaintiffs are a class of people who have been charged or paid for collect phone calls from inmates at the Marion County Jail and those incarcerated at Indiana Department of Correction facilities.

The suit was first filed in 2000, dismissed by the trial court for lack of subject jurisdiction, and appealed to the Court of Appeals. In Alexander I, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether the sheriff and commissioner of IDOA were allowed to enter into contracts with Ameritech and AT&T that provided commissions and other compensation paid by the phone company to the sheriff and state, and if the rates charged for collect calls in the jail and DOC facilities were reasonable.

On remand, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the sheriff and IDOA, leading to the second appeal to the Court of Appeals by the plaintiffs.

In the instant case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment. After examining Indiana statute, the appellate court found the defendants didn't violate any of the prohibition against excessive license fees, unreasonable user fees, or combinations in restraint of trade.

"Finding no statutory constraints on the Sheriff's or the State's authority to enter into contracts that call for the service providers to pay commissions to the Sheriff and the State in accordance with their respective contracts, and in light of the General Assembly's recognition of the Sheriff's and the State's authority to accept commissions from telephone service providers, we conclude that the trial court properly decided the threshold issue, i.e., the Sheriff and the State had the authority to enter into contracts which provided that they would receive commissions from providers of telephone services to their respective facilities," wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

The Court of Appeals also found that the defendants met their initial burden of proof showing the rates charged to inmates in the jail or DOC facilities were reasonable as they were no more than rates charged to the public for a similar service. The plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of establishing there is a genuine issue of fact regarding the reasonableness of the rates charged by the phone companies, he wrote.
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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