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Lake County judge strikes down provision in Indiana’s right-to-work law

Marilyn Odendahl
September 10, 2013
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In a ruling that never used the popular term “right-to-work,” Lake Superior Court Judge John Sedia found a provision in Indiana’s 2012 labor law violated the state constitution’s ban on demanding services without just compensation.

Sedia dismissed four counts of the original complaint brought by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, and other plaintiffs. After an in-depth examination of state law, federal law, court precedent and the Indiana Constitution, however, he held that the section of the right-to-work law which requires unions to provide services at no cost to non-union employees to be unconstitutional.

“There is no Court which is more loathe to declare any state statute unconstitutional than this one,” Sedia wrote in his order issued Sept. 5. “(Indiana Code) 22-6-6-8 and IC 22-6-6-10 stand clothed with the presumption of constitutionality. Debate regarding the wisdom or folly of this statute (about which the Court has purposely avoided using its title) lies in the political arena, not with the courts.”

Sedia entered a declaratory judgment that IC 22-6-6-8, which prohibits an individual from being required to join a labor organization and pay dues, fees or other charges, and IC 22-6-6-10, which makes forcing employees to pay union dues a Class A misdemeanor, violate Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office, calling Sedia’s ruling incorrect, stated that it immediately would file an appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Bryan Corbin, spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said the Zoeller “will aggressively defend the authority of the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature as we successfully defended this same statute from the same plaintiff who challenged it in federal court,”  

Democratic leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate hailed the ruling as another example of failure for the right-to-work law.

“But finally, one branch of government made sense,” House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City said in a statement. “Hoosiers’ middle class wages lag badly behind other Americans and one judge believes our law is not just for those with money and power.”

The law sparked fierce debates in the Indiana Statehouse during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. Democrats opposed the measure, staging walkouts to prevent a vote, but Republicans were able to pass the bill which former Gov. Mitch Daniels signed.

The first count of the plaintiffs’ complaint alleged the right-to-work provision that compels Local 150 to provide a particular service to the employees it represents without receiving any pay violated Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution. That section of the state constitution holds that “No person’s particular services shall be demanded without just compensation.”

Sedia pointed to Bayh v. Sonnenburg, 573 N.E. 2d 398 (Ind. 1991), for a definition of what constitutes a “demand.” Here the Indiana Justices found that “a request becomes a demand when it is backed up with the use or threatened use of physical force or legal process which creates in the citizen a reasonable belief that he is not free to refuse the request.”

He also highlighted the federal labor law which mandates unions provide services such as processing grievances and negotiating contracts on behalf of members and non-members alike.

Sedia concluded IC 22-6-6-8 and IC 22-6-6-10 criminalizes the act of a union being paid for the services the federal law demands it provides to employees.

 “…the effect of IC 22-6-6-8 and IC 22-6-6-10 under the current, long-standing federal labor law, is to demand particular services without just compensation,” he wrote. “The Court therefore has no choice but to find that IC 22-6-6-8 and IC 22-6-6-10 violate Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution.”

The five-count complaint challenging the right-to-work law on constitutional grounds was filed in Lake County on Feb. 11, 2013. Sedia dismissed the other counts, finding, under the Indiana Constitution, the right to work law did not deprive Local 150 members of equal protection, did not infringe on Local 150’s free speech rights and is not an ex post facto law.
 

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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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