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Judge rules on case involving legislative walkout fines

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A Marion Superior judge has ruled that state courts don’t have the ability to interfere with the Indiana General Assembly’s constitutional authority to pass laws or its own internal rules, including how it compels attendance or imposes fines.

But Judge David Dreyer also ruled that if the legislative body is acting as an employer, then the state must adhere to Indiana statute on employee wage issues and those claims are ones that trial courts can consider.

In a five-page decision Tuesday in William Crawford v. Tim Berry, et al., No. 49D10-1106-PL-023491, Dreyer kept alive a case filed in June on the heels of 39 Indiana House of Representatives Democrats being fined for a five-week walkout in February and March. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, used a House rule to assess fines against the Democrats who left the state in response to a proposed right-to-work bill. The fines were deducted from their legislative pay, and Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, brought suit to recoup the more than $3,000 taken in wages and retirement contributions by State Auditor Tim Berry.

The suit alleged that Indiana Code 22-2-8-1 prohibits employers from taking the fines out of paychecks. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on grounds that state courts don’t have the authority to intervene in the internal affairs of a separate branch of government.

Relying on Article 3, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution and a 1993 Indiana Supreme Court case, Dreyer agreed with the state’s argument and granted the motion to dismiss on that issue. State statute doesn’t allow the fine, and Dreyer pointed to State ex Rel. Masariu v. Marion Superior Court, Ind., 621 N.E.2d 1097 (1993), to find that even illegal activities don’t mean the courts can intervene.

“So, Indiana courts cannot interfere with the House’s ‘exclusive constitutional authority’ to pass laws, even if they violate other laws when doing so,” Dreyer wrote. “Similarly, this Court cannot interfere with the House’s ‘exclusive constitutional authority’ to compel attendance or determine a fine, even if it violates I.C. 22-2-8-1 when doing so.”

As a result of that determination, Dreyer dismissed Bosma as a party.

But even when the House has “exclusive constitutional authority” to compel attendance and impose fines, Dreyer determined the courts can still interpret and enforce applicable Indiana statutes on wages because of its own “exclusive constitutional authority.” The judge found that the House fine affects statutorily protected employee compensation and that doesn’t fall within the legislative body’s exclusive power because the House is acting as an employer. That means Berry, the state auditor, remains as a defendant and the suit proceeds.


 

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  • Clarification
    We did not press the fine issue. The issue was always the illegal collection of the fine and the illegal failure to pay the per diem and pension. We prevailed on those three issues.

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. 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

  5. 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

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