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Trial court's suppression order binding to ethics commission

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After turning to the Indiana State Ethics Commission when a trial court ordered the evidence in a theft case suppressed, the state was reminded it “does not get a second bite at the apple.”   

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s reversal of the ethics commission’s ruling in Indiana State Ethics Commission, an agency of the State of Indiana, Office of Inspector General, an agency of the State of Indiana, and David Thomas, in his official capacity as Inspector General v. Patricia Sanchez, 49A02-1301-PL-12.
 
The state of Indiana, through the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, filed felony theft charges against Patricia Sanchez for keeping state property after she was dismissed from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Officials had found the missing items in her home and car.

However, the trial court granted Sanchez’s motion to suppress the evidence on the grounds the search warrant was obtained and executed based on stale information.

The state did not appeal the suppression order, and the prosecutor dismissed the charges.

Then the state, through the Office of the Inspector General, filed a complaint with the ethics commission. It did not tell the commission about the suppression order.

Again, Sanchez filed a motion to suppress the evidence, but the commission denied it. The commission then found Sanchez had violated the Indiana Administrative Code’s prohibition against the personal use of state property, and it barred her from future employment with the state.

Sanchez filed a petition for judicial review in the trial court. The court reversed the commission, concluding the suppression order constituted a binding decision on the question of probable cause and that the ethics commission had no discretion to ignore that order.

On appeal, the state argued the ethics commission had exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether probable cause existed to proceed to a public hearing on the complaint.

“We are not persuaded that the Ethics Commission is in a better position – let alone an exclusive one – than Indiana’s trial courts to determine probable cause,” Judge Edward Najam wrote. “But, even if it were, an agency’s special expertise does not allow it to ignore its privy’s prior, adequate representation of the same issue before a competent tribunal.”

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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