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COA orders court to determine whether driver fired for just cause

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that a St. Joseph Circuit judge erred by granting summary judgment in favor of a school corporation instead of making an independent determination of whether a school bus driver was discharged for just cause.

Lula L. Jenkins was fired from her job as a bus driver for South Bend Community School Corp. after it was determined she violated two work rules by allowing a child to ride her bus past the child’s destination and into the school corporation’s maintenance facility. She and the union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 62, and AFL-CIO Local 686, filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement. Article 4 of the CBA sets forth the four-step grievance procedure and defines what is a grievance. Article 4 also provides that “[t]he grievance and arbitration provisions of this article are an exclusive remedy. With respect to every arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator shall be advisory to the Superintendent and not binding on either party.”

A neutral arbitrator determined that just cause didn’t exist to support Jenkins’ discharge and issued an order that she be reinstated with back pay, benefits and seniority. The school corporation declined, saying the order is merely advisory based on Article 4. Jenkins and the union then sought a de novo judicial review of whether the CBA was violated.

St. Joseph Circuit Judge Michael Gotsch granted the SBCSC’s motion for summary judgment without conducting a de novo review of whether the CBA was violated. He concluded the SBCSC was within its right to fire Jenkins and that the superintendent wasn’t contractually compelled to follow the advisory opinion of the arbitrator.

“In this case, we conclude that the ‘exclusive remedy’ provision of the CBA at issue here was intended to function only as an exhaustion-of-administrative-remedies provision and not as a bar to Jenkins’s exercise of her right to free and open courts and their remedies,” Judge James Kirsch wrote. “Thus, under this CBA Jenkins must proceed through the grievance procedure prior to resorting to judicial review of her claims. The advisory nature of the arbitrator’s award allows the non-prevailing party, here SBCSC, to reject the award, thus triggering judicial review, either under the (Indiana Uniform Arbitration Act’s) provisions or for a determination whether the facts found by the arbitrator support the award. Consequently, we find that the trial court erred by declining to make that determination and by entering summary judgment in favor of SBCSC.”

The appellate court remanded Lula L. Jenkins, et al. v. South Bend Community School Corp., 71A03-1206-PL-260, for further proceedings.

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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