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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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