Federal judge denies declaratory judgment to former Supreme Court employee

A district court judge has officially denied declaratory judgment to a former Indiana Supreme Court employee alleging disability discrimination on the part of state judicial leaders.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Thursday denied Andrew Straw’s motion for declaratory judgment against the state Supreme Court and its various officers, whom Straw said have repeatedly discriminated against him on the basis of his mental and physical disabilities. Straw filed the federal suit Dec. 25 in response to an Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission hearing officer report that recommended the suspension of his law license.

Magnus-Stinson declined to intervene in the disciplinary proceedings against Straw and instead entering a show cause order as to why final judgment should not be entered. Under the doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 E.S. 37 (1971), the chief judge wrote that she was required to dismiss the case because federal courts are not permitted to interfere with state proceedings that are judicial in nature, involve important state interests, provide an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims and do not contain special circumstances that would make abstention inappropriate.

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Straw’s law license for 180 days without automatic reinstatement, effective Tuesday.

In her Thursday order, Magnus-Stinson wrote that although Straw’s reply briefs ignored the Supreme Court’s Younger arguments in response to his motion for preliminary injunction, he attempted to extensively reject those arguments in response to the district court’s show cause order.

“Mr. Straw’s arguments are instead akin to a motion to reconsider, but motions to reconsider ‘are not replays of the main event,’” Magnus-Stinson wrote. “Put another way, reconsideration ‘is not an appropriate forum for … arguing matters that could have been heard during the pendency of the previous motion.”

In an email to the Indiana Lawyer, Straw said he had filed for appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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