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Ethics commission fines, bans attorney from state employment

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The Indiana State Ethics Commission has found a former general counsel and chief administrative law judge for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission violated the law when he participated in decisions involving his future employer, Duke, while still with the IURC.

The ethics commission released its findings in a report Thursday, outlining the charges against Scott Storms. The inspector general charged Storms with violating Indiana Code Section 4-2-6-9(a) when he participated as an ALJ in the Duke Edwardsport case while knowing he had a financial interest in the case because he was negotiating employment with Duke at that time. He was also charged with violating the law when he participated as an ALJ in the Duke Smart Grid case after he learned he would become an attorney at Duke. Duke had a financial interest in both the Edwardsport and Smart Grid cases.

Storms ruled on the Duke cases in July 2010, and he began working at Duke in late September 2010. He was fired in early November 2010. His salary at Duke was $42,000 more than what he earned with the IURC.

The ethics commission found he violated I.C. Section 4-2-6-9(a) by participating in the matters and by not notifying his appointing authority of a potential conflict of interest or seeking an advisory opinion from the commission after he began negotiations for the open position at Duke. Storms also failed to file a written description detailing the nature and circumstances of the matter and make full disclosure of any related financial interest in the matter.

The ethics commission imposed a $12,120 fine, which was three times the amount of benefit Storms obtained from the $4,040 salary increase he received during his employment at Duke. He must pay the fine in full to the commission within 60 days. He is also banned from future employment with the state.

Duke’s Indiana president, Mike Reed, a former executive director of IURC, was fired at the same time as Storms as a result of this matter. Gov. Mitch Daniels fired IURC Chairman David Lott Hardy in October 2010 for not having Storms step down from Duke cases after learning Storms applied for a job with the company. Reed sent numerous emails and communicated with Storms and Hardy regarding Storms’ prospective employment.

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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.

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