ILNews

Judge rules on case involving legislative walkout fines

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • 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.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

ADVERTISEMENT