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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. Bob Leonard killed two people named Jennifer and Dion Longworth. There were no Smiths involved.

  2. Being on this journey from the beginning has convinced me the justice system really doesn't care about the welfare of the child. The trial court judge knew the child belonged with the mother. The father having total disregard for the rules of the court. Not only did this cost the mother and child valuable time together but thousands in legal fees. When the child was with the father the mother paid her child support. When the child was finally with the right parent somehow the father got away without having to pay one penny of child support. He had to be in control. Since he withheld all information regarding the child's welfare he put her in harms way. Mother took the child to the doctor when she got sick and was totally embarrassed she knew nothing regarding the medical information especially the allergies, The mother texted the father (from the doctors office) and he replied call his attorney. To me this doesn't seem like a concerned father. Seeing the child upset when she had to go back to the father. What upset me the most was finding out the child sleeps with him. Sometimes in the nude. Maybe I don't understand all the rules of the law but I thought this was also morally wrong. A concerned parent would allow the child to finish the school year. Say goodbye to her friends. It saddens me to know the child will not have contact with the sisters, aunts, uncles and the 87 year old grandfather. He didn't allow it before. Only the mother is allowed to talk to the child. I don't think now will be any different. I hope the decision the courts made would've been the same one if this was a member of their family. Someday this child will end up in therapy if allowed to remain with the father.

  3. Ok attorney Straw ... if that be a good idea ... And I am not saying it is ... but if it were ... would that be ripe prior to her suffering an embarrassing remand from the Seventh? Seems more than a tad premature here soldier. One putting on the armor should not boast liked one taking it off.

  4. The judge thinks that she is so cute to deny jurisdiction, but without jurisdiction, she loses her immunity. She did not give me any due process hearing or any discovery, like the Middlesex case provided for that lawyer. Because she has refused to protect me and she has no immunity because she rejected jurisdiction, I am now suing her in her district.

  5. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

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