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Duke loses appeal of scandal-touched IURC rate case reversal

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The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s reversal and subsequent rejection of deferred accounting of $11.9 million for Duke Energy was affirmed by the Court of Appeals Friday in a case revisited because of an ethics scandal involving state regulators.

Duke appealed an IURC ruling against its request for deferred accounting related to expenses incurred in a 2009 ice storm. The IURC previously had found in Duke’s favor, and the utility sued claiming that the decision against it was arbitrary and capricious.

Even though the IURC provided no reasons for denying Duke’s second request, the COA ruled that it didn’t have to in Duke Energy Indiana, Inc. v. Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission,  93A02-1111-EX-1042.

“We find that there were changes in the evidence from the first hearing to the second hearing that justified the IURC’s decision to deny Duke relief the second time around, and, in any event, the IURC was not required to explain why it reached a different conclusion,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court. “We therefore affirm the IURC’s decision to deny Duke’s request to utilize deferred-accounting treatment for over $11 million in storm-operating expenses.”

The IURC’s decision against Duke came after it was discovered that former IURC chairman David Lott Hardy was aware that administrative law judge Scott Storms was talking to the utility about a position at Duke while he was presiding over their cases.

Storms was hired by Duke and subsequently fired, and a state ethics panel fined him $10,000 and forbid him from holding future state employment. Hardy was fired and charged with three Class D felony counts of official misconduct.    
 
“Duke is unable to cite to any authority requiring the IURC to fully explain why it changed its mind following a new hearing on the issues at which updated evidence was presented,” Vaidik wrote, noting that the IURC did make required findings in the second case.

“What happened here is analogous to what sometimes happens in civil cases across this state. That is, it is similar to a trial court denying a party’s summary-judgment motion without explanation early in a case but then granting that very same summary-judgment motion, on the same evidence, one week before trial without explanation. In both instances, the evidence is essentially the same, and the ‘judge’ is not required to give an explanation as to why he changed his mind between one decision and another,” Vaidik wrote.

“Although the better practice would have been for the IURC to clearly articulate why it reached different conclusions, we find that the updated evidence presented at the second hearing justified the IURC’s decision to deny Duke relief in its October 2011 order, and, in any event, the IURC was not required to explain why it reached an opposite conclusion in its October 2011 order.”

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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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