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Deputy’s ‘playful’ groin shot not cause for termination, COA affirms

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A longtime Bartholomew County merit deputy disciplined after he “playfully shot a fellow officer in the groin with non-lethal training ammunition” was not fired for cause, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in affirming an administrative law judge’s determination the deputy was entitled to unemployment benefits.

Robert L. Amos was a merit deputy for nearly 40 years until May 2013, when the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Merit Board found Amos violated six department rules after the incident following a training exercise.

During debriefing, when participants had removed some of their protective gear, Hartsville Town Marshall A.J. Ross said he had not been hit with the non-lethal Simunition plastic bullets during the exercise, according to the record.

Amos laughed and said he had been hit four times during a “live fire” scenario exercise. “He then raised his weapon and playfully shot Marshal Ross, hitting him in his groin protector,” according to the Court of Appeals order in Bartholomew County, Indiana v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Robert L. Amos, 93A02-1311-EX-986. Ross wasn’t injured, but an instructor immediately took Amos’ weapon and admonished him.

The merit board found Amos’ rules violations constituted cause for termination and immediately discharged him from the department. Initially found ineligible for unemployment benefits, Amos appealed and testified before an administrative law judge that the rules were applied unevenly. He “testified to several instances of other officers playfully shooting fellow employees with (Simunition) without being disciplined,” and the administrative law judge reversed, finding the county didn’t uniformly enforce its rules for “just cause” discharge.
    
The county failed to prove otherwise to the Court of Appeals. The county argued that because Amos was a certified firearms instructor, the proper comparative class is firearms instructors who engaged in Simunition horseplay. “This claim has no merit,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel. “Not one of the six rules Amos violated differentiates between officers who are certified firearms instructors and those who are not.”

The county also lost its arguments that the merit board’s ruling collaterally estopped Amos from claiming he wasn’t discharged for just cause and that the Department of Workforce Development Review Board abused its discretion by denying the merit board transcript as additional evidence.

“The county claimed the transcript called into question Amos’s testimony at the ALJ hearing that other officers had playfully shot fellow employees with (Simunition) without being disciplined. The County, however, did not offer an explanation as to why it did not present the transcript as evidence at the ALJ hearing.”








 

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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