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Judge dismisses federal right-to-work challenge

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A U.S. District judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed in Hammond by a labor union challenging the state’s right-to-work law for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Chief Judge Philip P. Simon in the Northern District of Indiana did allow two counts claiming the law violates the Indiana Constitution to proceed in state court.

Simon handed down his ruling Thursday in James M. Sweeney, et al. v. Mitch Daniels, et al., 2:12-CV-PPS/PRC, the suit filed by the Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and several of its officers and members after Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the right-to-work legislation into law Feb. 1, 2012.

The law prevents forced union membership and union security clauses.

The lawsuit challenges the new law under the Contracts Clause, Ex Post Facto Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and preemption claims, and alleges the law violates the state constitution.

Simon found that Section 3 – which says nothing in the law changes or effects “any law concerning” collective bargaining in the building and construction industry other than a law that allows agreements requiring union member or payments of dues to a union or substitute payments to charities – is not a substantive provision and not retroactive.

“Because there exists a plausible public policy reason for enacting the Right to Work statute based on economic theories which the legislators may have believed to be true, and the relationship of that rationale to the legislation is not arbitrary or irrational, the Equal Protection challenge fails,” he wrote.

Simon found the union’s preemption challenges to the law and the Emergency Rule all run “headlong” into Retail Clerks Int’l Ass’n, Local 1625 v. Schermerhorn, 375  U.S. 96, 102 (1963) (Retail Clerks II), and should be dismissed.

Counts 8 and 9, which claim the right-to-work law violates various provisions of the Indiana Constitution, were dismissed without prejudice to allow them to proceed in state court.

“For better or worse, the political branches of government make policy judgments. The electorate can ultimately decide whether those judgments are sound, wise and constitute good governance, and then can express their opinions at the polls and by other means. But those are questions beyond the reach of the federal court, which instead is limited to analysis of particular legal arguments that the challenged legislation runs afoul of preemptive federal labor law or the U.S. Constitution. None of the legal challenges launched by the Union here to attack Indiana’s new Right to Work law can succeed,” Simon summarized.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller released a statement Thursday after the ruling, saying, “The federal court’s decision supports the legal authority and policy decisions of the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature, and we appreciate the court’s thorough analysis. My office will continue to defend the statute from legal challenge or appeal in any future court action.”

In October 2012, Lake Circuit Judge George Paras allowed a challenge to the law filed in state court to proceed. That case, United Steel v. Lori Torres, et al., 45C01-1207-PL-71, has a status hearing set for Jan. 29.  

 

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  3. Don't believe me, listen to Pacino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6bC9w9cH-M

  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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