High court to consider whether to take utility rate hike case

The justices of the Indiana Supreme Court will consider whether to decide a dispute over a northern Indiana utility rate increase when it hears oral arguments on petition to transfer this week.

The case of NIPSCO Industrial Group v. Northern Indiana Public Service Corporation, 93A02-1607-EX-01644, will come before the high court on petition to transfer at 9 a.m. Tuesday. In that case, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved the Northern Indiana Public Service Co.’s petition to raise its rates to fund “multiple unit projects,” and a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

However, Judge Michael Barnes dissented, finding NIPSCO’s description of “multiple unit projects” was too broad and did not comply with the statutory requirements for approval. A group of customers appealed on similar grounds and is now seeking relief from the Indiana Supreme Court.

Also on Tuesday, the justices will also hear the case of Aaron Fansler v. State of Indiana, 27S02-1710-CR-00672, at 9:45 a.m. After Aaron Fansler was arrested for drug crimes at a Grant County hotel as part of a sting operation, he admitted to officers that he was in possession of heroin and pills. He later challenged the admissibility of those statements, and the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed the admission was erroneous because the hotel room was a “place of detention” and the confession was not made as part of routine booking, yet there was no electronic recording.

However, Judge Paul Mathias also determined such error was harmless because of other evidence pointing to Fansler’s guilt. Fansler appealed, challenging both the admission of the statements and his 13-year sentence. The high court has granted transfer to his case.

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