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Supreme Court to hear whistleblower case against IDEM

May 12, 2017

A former state employee who claims she was fired for blowing the whistle on questionable payment practices in the Indiana Department of Environment Management will bring her case before the Indiana Supreme Court next week, when she will urge the justices to allow her complaint against the state agency to continue.

Oral arguments in Suzanne E. Esserman v. Indiana Department of Environmental Management, 49S02-1704-PL-189, are set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday before the high court. Suzanne Esserman, who was fired from her position with IDEM in January 2014, has rejected the state’s claim she was let go due to poor work performance.

Instead, Esserman said IDEM fired her after she began asking questions about submitted invoices and receipts in the agency’s Excess Liability Trust Fund program. The former state worker claims she refused to rubber stamp approvals for payment through the ELTF division, which led to her discharge.

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal of Esserman’s whistleblower complaint in December, and on Thursday she will take her case to the Supreme Court in the hopes of receiving a ruling that will one day allow her to return to work for the state. 

The court will hear two additional oral arguments on Thursday. First, at 9 a.m., the justices will consider whether Pizza Hut can be held liable for the death of a man whose death was caused, in part, by a Pizza Hut delivery driver striking his scooter.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in September the negligent hiring claim against Pizza Hut in the case of Dale Sedam, Kim Sedam, and Bryan Norris, as co-personal representatives of the Estate of David C. Hamblin, deceased v. 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC doing business as Pizza Hut, 39S05-1703-CT-00171, can continue. 

Then at 9:45, the court will hear the case of Will Thomas v. State of Indiana, 27S02-1703-CR-000170. In that case, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Will Thomas’ conviction for Class A felony dealing in a narcotic drug after holding the drugs found in his mouth should be excluded under the “fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.”

Thursday’s oral arguments will be the first held without Justice Robert Rucker, who retires today after nearly 18 years on the Supreme Court bench. Gov. Eric Holcomb is in the process of selecting Rucker’s replacement from a trio of finalists – Clark Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael, Wabash Superior Judge Christopher Goff and Boone Superior Judge Matthew Kincaid.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush sent a letter to Holcomb detailing the finalists’ qualifications on April 26.  Holcomb now has 60 days from that date to select Indiana’s next justice.

 

 

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