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Majority upholds dismissal of unemployment benefits appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals split today on whether a woman’s appeal after she was denied unemployment benefits should be reinstated. The woman claimed she missed the administrative law judge’s phone call because of confusion regarding different time zones.

S.S. appealed the denial of her unemployment benefits and a telephonic hearing was set. S.S. lives in Hammond and the administrative law judge was in Indianapolis. The notice she received said her hearing would be at 9:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and that the ALJ would call all the parties. The notice also gave instructions regarding different time zones in Indiana and said it's S.S.’s responsibility to know which time zone she is in and when the hearing will take place.

S.S. missed the ALJ’s call because she was in a federal building attending a food stamp hearing and believed the hearing was set for 10:15 a.m. Central Standard Time. Her appeal was dismissed, and her request for reinstatement was denied by the appeals director and the review board.

Chief Judge Margret Robb and Judge Patricia Riley affirmed in S.S. v. Review Board, No. 93A02-1006-EX-738. They concluded that S.S. was afforded due process and a reasonable opportunity for a hearing. They also held there weren’t any errors in the review board’s consideration of evidence or its denial of her request to reinstate her appeal. They noted she could have asked that the ALJ change the date or time of the unemployment hearing so she could attend both the food stamp and unemployment hearing, but she did not. The majority also decided that she wasn’t denied a reasonable opportunity to participate in a hearing even if she was confused by the time zones.

The majority also noted concern regarding the lack of statutory or regulatory authority governing the grant or denial of reinstatement of a Department of Workforce Development administrative appeal. The appeals director’s order cited a regulation that expired on Jan. 1, 2009, and hasn’t been readopted, wrote Chief Judge Robb. The review board’s appellate brief includes DWD Policy 2008-28, but that has not been promulgated as a rule.

“Absent authority in the statutes specifically governing the DWD, or in its properly promulgated regulations, there is simply no statutory or regulatory authority governing, among other things, the grant or denial of a request for reinstatement. Especially given that this issue is likely to recur with some frequency, we urge the DWD to promulgate an applicable rule. If the DWD fails to do so, then the legislature may need to take corrective action to fill this legal gap,” she wrote.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, focusing on the review board’s denial of S.S.’s request for reinstatement. She believed S.S. timely filed her request as opposed to the arguments of the appeals director and review board that she filed it too early or too late.

“Plausible arguments about due process aside, and looking at the total picture, we have before us the situation of a stressed-out, financially strapped, unemployed woman who made the very common mistake of confusing the time for her hearing to be an hour later rather than an hour earlier than the stated time given the time zone she was in, a mistake made every day by those who must negotiate the two time zones existing among the various counties of Indiana,” she wrote.

She noted S.S.'s appeal may or may not have merit, but all she wants is to have the appeal heard.
 

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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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