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Judges disagree as to athlete's eligibility

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One Indiana Court of Appeals judge believed his colleagues strayed from the evidence of recruitment and instead focused the family's financial plight when they decided the high school athlete didn't transfer schools primarily for athletic reasons.

In Indiana High School Athletic Association Inc v. Jasmine S. Watson, individually and by and through her mother, Valerie K. Watson and South Bend Community School Corp., No. 71A03-0901-CV-25, Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Patricia Riley affirmed the trial court's finding that the Indiana High School Athletic Association acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it ruled Jasmine Watson was ineligible to play basketball at South Bend Washington High School after she transferred there just before her senior year. Her family claimed the transfer was caused by her mother's work hours being cut, the impending foreclosure of their home, and extended family living in South Bend. The majority also upheld the trial court's entering a preliminary injunction prohibiting the IHSAA from enforcing its decision.

The appellate court ruled on the decision, even though Jasmine has since graduated, because if they find she was ineligible, it could make Washington forfeit wins or awards, plus the IHSAA has filed a countersuit against the Watsons for damages, and that case has yet to be resolved.

Judge Ezra Friedlander dissented on several issues, including whether the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing at which witnesses testified and evidence was introduced. He believed the trial court shouldn't have allowed for new evidence and should have just examined the record of proceedings before the IHSAA. The majority decided it wasn't in the position to second-guess the trial court's assessment of witness credibility and that the trial court permitted some evidence as relevant to the irreparable harm allegedly suffered as a result of the ineligibility ruling, not as relevant to the underlying merits of the case, Chief Judge Baker noted.

The trial court found much of the evidence relied on by the IHSAA was unsubstantiated hearsay or double hearsay because the organization failed to call witnesses to support the claims Jasmine and her mother had stated they were unhappy with her playing time at Elkhart and she was looking to go to Washington. The majority supported the decision to discount the evidence because the trial court found it to be incompetent. Judge Friedlander in his dissent claimed the testimony should have been allowed because it was "run-of-the-mill" hearsay and hearsay is permitted in an administrative proceeding as long as it is not objected to. The judge also believed the hearsay was deemed incompetent merely because it was hearsay.

Even taking into account the IHSAA evidence that Jasmine and her mother had spoken about transferring prior to her mother's work hours being cut, the majority focused on the family's financial situation as the primary reason they moved to South Bend.

"The IHSAA found Valerie's decision to be 'unusual,'" wrote Chief Judge Baker. "Perhaps it was, but only because she found herself in unusually trying circumstances."

Judge Friedlander believed the evidence supported the determination Jasmine was ineligible to play her senior year. The majority disagreed and affirmed the injunction placed by the trial court, ruling the injunction was not overbroad.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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