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Fines will stand in legislative walkout case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled the dispute over fines imposed on lawmakers resulting from Democratic walkouts during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions is outside of the court’s authority to render a decision.

In Tim Berry, auditor of State; M. Caroline Spotts, Principal Clerk of the House of Representatives; and The State of Indiana/Brian C. Bosma, Speaker v. William Crawford, et. al, 49S00-1201-PL-53 and 49S00-1202-PL-76, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and directed the trial court grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of justiciability.

However, the case split the court with Justice Robert Rucker dissenting and Justice Loretta Rush concurring in part and dissenting in part.

The case stems from the walkout by Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives during the right-to-work debates in 2011 and 2012. Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, directed that fines be withheld from the legislative pay of the absent representatives.

The affected members of the House Democratic Caucus brought suit in Marion Superior Court seeking to recover the withheld pay and enjoin future action to recover the fines.

In its decision, the majority of the Supreme Court held the actions taken were within the authority granted both in the Indiana Constitution and in the House rules. Therefore, the judicial branch has no authority to decide the case.

“Although courts in general have the power to determine disputes between citizens, even members of the Indiana General Assembly, we hold that where a particular function has been expressly delegated to the legislature by our Constitution without any express constitutional limitation or qualification, disputes arising in the exercise of such functions are inappropriate for judicial resolution,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote.

Dickson was joined by Justices Steven David and Mark Massa.

As part of his dissent, Rucker argued the court’s assertion that it is constitutionally limited from intervening is without precedence. He stated the House of Representatives’ constitutionally granted ability to punish its members does not include the discretion to reduce its members’ compensation.

Rush joined Rucker in arguing the case is not about the House’s authority to impose these fines but about whether it may collect the fines in the manner it did, and on that point, she wrote, “I share his understanding of Article 4, Section 29 as an ‘express constitutional limitation’ that makes this limited question justiciable.”

Bosma applauded about the court’s decision.

“I am very pleased that the Supreme Court properly respected the separation of powers and the rights of the legislative branch to manage its own internal affairs without interference from the judicial branch,” he said. “I consider this a victory for the Indiana Constitution and the proponents of limited government, and consider the matter closed.”


 


 

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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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