Legal Issues and Legislature and State Government and Indiana Supreme Court and Government & Economic Development and Government and Labor and Law

Right-to-work boycott fines put on hold by Indiana high court

February 8, 2012

The state Supreme Court placed on hold Wednesday all legislative fines against Democrats who boycotted the Indiana House during the right-to-work battle until it rules on whether it's legal for those fines to be deducted from their paychecks.

The court directed in an order signed by Chief Justice Randall Shepard that none of the $1,000-a-day fines levied this year against boycotting Democrats can be collected and none of the fines deducted for last year's five-week boycott can be returned to Democrats despite an order from a Marion County judge.

Majority House Republicans fined most House Democrats $4,000 for their January boycotts that left the House with too few members on several days as they tried to slow action the right-to-work bill that gained final legislative approval last week.

Mark GiaQuinta, a lawyer for the House Democrats, said he was pleased the Supreme Court had decided to take on the case and deny a request by the state attorney general's office to immediately allow deduction of this year's fines to begin.

"The court agreed with us that the denial of this method of collection until the appeal is heard in full does not constitute an emergency," GiaQuinta said.

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a Republican, has maintained that handling of the fines isn't a matter for the courts.

"Under the constitutional separation of powers the legislative branch is where the dispute over legislative fines ultimately should be decided, but to redirect it there requires this necessary first step at the Indiana Supreme Court," Zoeller said.

The Supreme Court didn't immediately set any deadlines for legal filings or schedule any hearings in the case.

Last week, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the right-to-work legislation, making Indiana the 23rd state to ban contracts between companies and labor unions that require all covered workers to pay fees.

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