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Judge: School corp.’s inattentiveness doesn’t support benefits reversal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was split Wednesday over whether a notice sent regarding a hearing on unemployment benefits required reversing the grant of benefits because the employer found the notice confusing.

The majority in Hamilton Heights School Corp. v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and Sherri K. Stepp, and The Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development, 93A02-1210-EX-795, reversed the decision by the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to grant Sherri Stepp unemployment benefits. Stepp worked as a custodian for Hamilton Heights School Corp. when she was fired after an on-the-job argument with a co-worker.

An administrative law judge, through a telephone hearing in July 2012, affirmed that Stepp was ineligible for benefits. Stepp appealed to the review board, which ordered a new hearing because the July hearing was “inadvertently destroyed” before the board could review the ALJ’s decision. The notice sent for the August hearing indicated it would be held in person, but the notice and attached acknowledgement sheet and instructions also included conflicting information that suggested the hearing would be held by telephone.

The school corporation did not show up in person and tried to call in. The ALJ found that Stepp was entitled to benefits because the school corporation did not participate in the hearing.

“Where, as is the case here, a prior hearing was held telephonically and no party has requested an in-person hearing, the conflicting nature of the information contained in these documents and instructions could lead a reasonable person to believe that the hearing would be conducted telephonically,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

“It is especially troublesome that a party could participate in and be successful following a hearing, have that hearing vacated through no fault of its own, be prepared for and willing to participate in a subsequent hearing, and attempt to contact the ALJ when not contacted for the hearing, only to have a ruling issued against it for failure to participate.”

Bradford and Judge Elaine Brown reversed and remanded for a hearing on the merits.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented, pointing to inattentiveness on the part of the school corporation to assume the August hearing would be held by phone.

“We are therefore left with the following legal precedent: an employer is denied due process by failing to participate at an unemployment compensation hearing when such failure is caused by a) the employer’s reliance on procedures followed at a prior hearing and b) its confusion resulting from the language contained in the notice of a subsequent hearing,” Riley wrote, referring to the majority’s decision. “However, I am constrained to find a simple failure to read tantamount to a due process violation.”

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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