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Judge orders refund of legislative fines

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The Democratic members of the Indiana House who faced fines for failing to attend sessions in protest of right-to-work legislation will be reimbursed any amount withheld in 2011, according to a ruling from Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer. The judge also ordered that any fines imposed this session may not be collected.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, fined the Democratic representatives who left the state during the 2011 legislative session and deducted the money from the legislators’ pay and per diem compensation. Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, filed the lawsuit challenging the legality of the fines being deducted from their pay. Bosma again fined House Democrats who walked out during the current legislative session in protest of right-to-work legislation.

Late last year, Dreyer ruled that the imposition of the fines is beyond the court’s subject matter jurisdiction, but the collection of the fines remained at issue. He decided Monday to order a permanent injunction for defendants – Indiana Auditor Tim Berry, Indiana House Principal Clerk M. Caroline Spotts and the state of Indiana – to return the money withheld from the plaintiffs during the 2011 session and refrain from withholding amounts for the 2012 session without compliance with applicable Indiana wage payment law.

The seizure of the plaintiffs’ pay violates the Indiana Wage Payment statutes and due process.

“The clearly determinative factor in this case is the extreme risk of an erroneous deprivation if no due process is afforded,” wrote Dreyer. “House members may be absent for a variety of reasons, not specifically for the purpose of obstructing legislative action. They should have, at a minimum, a fair opportunity to be heard and present evidence to justify their absence before denial of pay or imposition of any other penalty becomes effective.”

The Office of the Indiana Attorney General plans to appeal the permanent injunction, believing the disagreement over the collection of fines belongs in the legislative branch.

“The interruption that led to the recent legislative fines ended when session resumed and legislators now should work out among themselves whether to collect fines. We disagree with the trial court’s prolonging this internal dispute and the precedent it would establish, and we will respectfully ask a higher court to redirect the dispute promptly and conclusively to the place it belongs: the Legislature,” Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear the state’s separate appeal of Dreyer’s Dec. 6 ruling that declined to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit.

 

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  1. 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.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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