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Indiana Supreme Court denies review of Kokomo case

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Within hours of hearing oral arguments, the Indiana Supreme Court decided not to grant transfer to review the case involving a Kokomo fire captain ;s demotion to firefighter because of comments made from outside the department. The appeals court had ruled the demotion did not constitute a violation of his First Amendment free-speech rights.

The court had not released a decision by early this afternoon, but the City of Kokomo had posted a press release saying the justices did not agree to accept transfer of in Kokomo v. Scott Kern, No. 34A04-0512-CV-726. Court officials confirmed transfer was denied.

The case stems from Kern ;s 2005 demotion, which was a result of his comments outside the department relating to a fireworks display in the neighborhood where he lived the year before. Fire Chief Dave Duncan denied an application for a fireworks display permit because it was considered incomplete, and Kern criticized the decision and made comments to the residents and local newspaper that it was politically motivated. The department denied those accusations and later demoted him for saying the comments brought the department into disrepute and undermined the administration.

The trial court found the demotion invalid because it violated Kern ;s free speech rights, but the Court of Appeals reversed that decision in its Aug. 17, 2006.

During Supreme Court arguments, attorney Andrew Wirick, representing Kokomo, argued this case is a matter of the department ;s integrity while Kern ;s attorney John Kautzman said it comes down to free speech only being protected for complimentary speech, which discourages public employees from publicly speaking about matters of concern. Justices asked questions about fabricated statements, political affiliations, and variations of harm caused by comments.

"This is an important case not only for the City of Kokomo but also for every city in Indiana," Kokomo ;s corporate counsel Jon Mayes said in the news release. "The City is a firm believer in protecting the First Amendment rights of citizens, but the courts recognize that those being unjustly criticized also have rights."
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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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