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Judge rules against former deputy in Taser suit

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A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Hamilton County sheriff and other officials in a former employee’s lawsuit filed after the employee was fired for refusing to be shocked by a Taser as part of a training session.

Ray Robert worked in law enforcement for nearly 30 years. He began working as a civil deputy process server for the sheriff’s department after his retirement. This was an at-will position. Hamilton County Sheriff Douglas Carter instituted a policy in 2008 requiring all civil deputy process servers to carry Tasers and also required that anyone who would carry one must receive a single one-to-five second exposure to the Taser.

Robert refused, claiming he had a back condition that would not allow it. The sheriff’s department offered him a control room position with similar pay and hours, but the job did not include a department car and other related benefits. Robert eventually declined the job and was fired.

Robert filed his suit, Ray F. Robert v. Douglas G. Carter, individually and in his capacity of Sheriff of Hamilton County, Ind., Hamilton County Council and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, No. 1:09-CV-0425, in April 2009 in the Southern District of Indiana. U.S. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment May 3.

Robert claimed the defendants failed to exempt him from the Taser training or to provide him with a reasonable accommodation in violation of his rights under the American with Disabilities Act and that his employment was terminated without a hearing in violation of his procedural and substantive due process rights.

Judge Magnus-Stinson found Robert’s inability to participate in the training and consequently his inability to use a Taser rendered him unable to perform his essential job functions, so he didn’t meet the threshold requirement for ADA protection. The Taser exposure requirement, as determined by Sheriff Carter, is essential to the role of civil deputy process server.

The District Court also found that the accommodation Robert received – a position in the control room – was reasonable and Robert doesn’t have the right under the ADA to refuse a reasonable accommodation simply because it was not the one he preferred.

Also, because he was an at-will employee, Robert had no property interest in his employment and therefore no right to a hearing. Robert also didn’t raise an issue of fact sufficient to give rise to a substantive due process claim, wrote Judge Magnus-Stinson.

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  • Safety
    It seems to me that there were other avenues that could have been explored here, like the fact that even Taser warns there are risks associated with it, such as heart failure, etc. I assume the Sheriff doesn't require deputies who carry guns to get shot in the leg to know what it feels like. So requiring everybody to do something that carries with it a risk of serious bodily injury or death as a condition of employment seem luicrous.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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