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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. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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