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Justices: injured cop prevented by law from rejoining force

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A police officer who was injured in the 1980s and received disability benefits – but later was physically able to rejoin the police department – is statutorily prohibited against returning to the force, the Indiana Supreme Court decided in answering a certified question.

Mark Thatcher was a City of Kokomo police officer in the 1980s. After four years of service, he hurt his knee in the line of duty and eventually received Public Employees’ Retirement Fund disability benefits pursuant to his membership in the “1977 fund.” After more than 20 years of receiving the disability pension, surgery allowed Thatcher’s knee to be repaired and he asked for reinstatement to active duty.

Initially, the local pension board voted to reinstate Thatcher, but the Board of Works notified PERF that no suitable work was available for Thatcher. He then filed a federal suit claiming discrimination on the basis of age and disability. Thatcher was 49 at the time he asked for reinstatement.

When the city finally received money to hire more officers, it believed it was statutorily prevented from reinstating Thatcher based on Indiana Code 36-8-4-7(a): “A person may not be appointed as a member of the police department or fire department after the person has reached thirty-six (36) years of age. A person may be reappointed as a member of the department only if the person is a former member or a retired member not yet receiving retirement benefits of the 1925, 1937, 1953, or 1977 fund and can complete twenty (20) years of service before reaching sixty (60) years of age.”

The federal court sent the justices the certified questions: “1) Does Indiana Code section 36-8-4-7(a) apply to a member of the 1977 Fund who is receiving disability benefits and who has been determined to have been recovered pursuant to 35 Indiana Administrative Code section 2-5-5(c)? 2) If yes, does Indiana Code section 36-8-8-12(e) apply to determination of eligibility under Indiana Code section 36-8-4-7(a), such that time spent receiving disability benefits counts toward 'years of service' as that term is used in Indiana Code section 36-8-4-7(a)?”

The justices determined that I.C. 36-8-4-7(a) applies to a member of the 1977 fund who is receiving disability benefits and who has been determined to have been recovered pursuant to 35 Indiana Administrative Code 2-5-5(c). They also held that the time period during which a person receives disability benefits under Indiana Code 36-8-8-12(e) doesn’t count toward “years of service” as that term is used in I.C. 36-8-4-7(a).

“We commend Thatcher for his commitment to police service and for his efforts to return to active duty on the KPD. And we sympathize with his frustrations at not being able to return to serve his community in this capacity. Indeed the City initially believed it could offer Thatcher a position when one became available. The City later realized, and correctly so, that there was a statutory prohibition against allowing Thatcher’s return to the Department,” wrote Justice Robert Rucker in Mark J. Thatcher v. City of Kokomo, et al., No. 94S00-1109-CQ-570.

 

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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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