Justices to hear arguments in caseload case against DCS this week

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear arguments this week to determine whether an employee of the Indiana Department of Child Services can bring a class-action complaint against her employer for an alleged violation of statutory caseload limits under the public standing doctrine.

In the case of Mary Price v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 49S05-1705-PL-00285, Mary Price, a DCS permanency worker, sued on behalf of herself and a group of other similarly situated DCS employees, alleging the department consistently assigned them to caseloads exceeding the 17-child limit under Indiana statute. Specifically, Price claims she has been assigned as many as 43 children at one time.

The Marion Superior Court dismissed Price’s case, finding she had no private right of action to bring a claim against DCS under Indiana statute. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with that analysis, yet also found Price could proceed with her complaint as a member of the general public under the public standing doctrine. The high court will hear arguments in Price’s case at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.

The court will then hear arguments in Justine Archer v. State of Indiana, 49S04-1705-CR-00288, a case involving a restitution order against a woman convicted of felony auto theft. In a February memorandum decision, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the restitution order against Justine Archer, finding it was not supported by sufficient evidence. The case was remanded for a new restitution hearing, and the justices will hear arguments on the Court of Appeals’ decision at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

The court will also hear one case on petition to transfer this week. In William McNeal v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1604-CR-00838, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer handcuffed William McNeal after observing him behaving erratically in order to keep him at the scene with an unconscious person the officer was trying to tend to. A check of McNeal’s identification revealed an outstanding arrest warrant against him, and a subsequent search incident to arrest led to the discovery of three baggies of cocaine in McNeal’s pocket.

McNeal moved to suppress the evidence, but the Marion Superior Court denied that motion, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the officer’s “community caretaker” role made the detention of McNeal reasonable. McNeal moved for the Supreme Court to accept transfer, and the justices will hear arguments on petition to transfer at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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