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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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