Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment v. Elizabeth Bridgewater, et al. - 3/19/13

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Tuesday  March 19, 2013 
10:30 AM  EST

10:30 a.m. 93A02-1202-EX-145. FACES, Inc., is private, non-profit organization formed to provide social and educational opportunities for home-schooled children.  The founders of the organization are Catholic parents and the majority, though not all, of the members are Catholic.  At the time this dispute arose, FACES offered a number of educational courses, none of which related to religion.  FACES also sponsored occasional social events.  In 2008, FACES sponsored a ball, and one of the parents, Elizabeth Bridgewater, requested special dietary accommodations for her child, Alyssa, who planned to attend.  Alyssa suffers from a condition that can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction if she eats certain foods.  The Bridgewaters were unhappy with FACES’ treatment of their daughter’s dietary needs and filed an accommodation complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”).   Shortly thereafter, the Bridgewaters were expelled from FACES.  They filed an additional complaint with the ICRC, alleging that FACES had retaliated against them due to their filing of the accommodation complaint.

 
FACES moved to dismiss the complaints, arguing that the ICRC did not have jurisdiction over FACES, which it characterized as a religious-based organization.  An ALJ ultimately ruled that the ICRC did have jurisdiction under Indiana’s Civil Rights Law (“ICRL”) because FACES’ functions “relate to” education.  See Ind. Code § 22-9-1-3(1)(4).  The ALJ later ruled on the merits of the Bridgewater’s complaints, concluding that FACES did not commit an unlawful discriminatory practice as to accommodating Alyssa, but did commit an unlawful discriminatory practice when it expelled the Bridgewater family after they filed the accommodation complaint.  The ALJ awarded the Bridgwaters $5000 in damages and ordered FACES to: (1) cease and desist from retaliating against persons because they filed a complaint with the ICRC; (2) post a link to the ALJ’s order on all web sites on which they have communicated information regarding the case; and (3) offer reinstatement of the Bridgewater family to full membership, including all benefits.  Both parties appealed, and the original order was affirmed in all respects, except in that the ALJ decreased the amount of damages to $2500.
 

Both parties now appeal.  The main issues raised on appeal relate to the ICRC’s jurisdiction over FACES and the corrective action FACES was ordered to undertake.  In addition, the parties challenge the ALJ’s conclusions as to accommodation and retaliation, and damages. 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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